By Ted Waddell
KENOZA LAKE July 19, 2005 Is it a question of semantics or a violation of the law?
That's the question facing the Town of Delaware Planning Board, and by extension the Town Board, as they grapple with the definition of the word "camp" which is prohibited under local zoning laws or the term "recreation facility, tourist" which is permitted.
Last year, a group of Hasidic Jews rented the Valley View House on Swiss Hill Road in Kenoza Lake a former hotel turned rehab center years ago and used it as a girl's summer camp.
Locals got a bit flustered with the sudden arrival of what they perceived as "outsiders" and then outraged when the camp continued to operate in spite of several alleged violations of local zoning regulations.
This year, Perry E. Meltzer, a Monticello-based attorney, was back representing the facility before the town planning board at a public hearing on Wednesday, July 13, in which the camp's owner, AJCD Corporation, and its operator, Bnos Satmar of Boro Park (operating as Machne Bnos Satmar), again requested a special use permit to run the old hotel as a recreational facility.
Former President Bill Clinton would have loved it, as board members tried to figure out if a "camp" was really a "recreational facility, tourist" or whether they should be discussing the meaning of the word "is."
At last month's meeting, the group requested a special use permit to operate the facility as a girls summer camp, but it was not issued, and some local officials and a lot of residents are wondering why the camp/recreational facility started operation on the July 4th weekend in apparent violation of the law.
On July 13, in presenting a "second amended statement of usage in support of application for special use permit as a recreational facility, tourist," Meltzer, on behalf of the owner/operator, said the 2005 season "will commence on the latter of July 5 or the issuance of a special use permit, and will end prior to Labor Day Weekend.
"This recreational facility, tourist, is designed to provide overnight accommodations in permanently constructed buildings in combination with a variety of generally active recreational activities and opportunities.
According to the amended application, the recreational facility will host "250-300 guests, ages 6th grade through 11th grade (10 to 17 years of age). . . . The 2005 season will have a census of 245 guests. . . . The maximum facility population, guests and staff, whether operating as a recreational facility, tourist, or hotel, will not exceed 329."
Despite all the talk about changing the wording, a large sign along Swiss Hill Road reading "Camp Bnos Satmar of Boro Park" greeted busloads of young girls as they arrived for the summer season starting on the 4th of July weekend.
During the July 13 planning board meeting, Meltzer said the word "camp" would be removed from the sign.
In a special town board meeting of Tuesday, July 12, Supervisor Bill Moran responded to the alleged violations.
"We decided to wait until . . . we receive [more] information. Each of us sees different things. . . . If we cant prove it [a violation]," he said, "theres no sense in going to court and getting it dismissed..
We are seriously looking into it, he continued. As of yet, we have not found definitively that theyre in violation.
When not running the facility as a summer camp for girls, AJCD Corp wants to use it as a hotel.
"When not operating as a recreational facility, tourist, the facility will operate as a hotel, offering temporary lodging accommodations to the general public for periods generally of two weeks or less, on the basis of weekly rentals, and will provide additional services such as a restaurant, meeting rooms and the recreational facilities.
"Advance reservations will be required. Walk-in business for overnight and other short terms of stay, such as the short-term stays that a motel commonly provides, will be discouraged," said the applicants.
On July 4, the NYS Department of Health (DOH) issued a permit (facility code 52-E143, permit number 52-E143) allowing the operation of "a children's summer camp" to Bnos Satmar of Boro Park, address listed as 222 Swiss Hill Road, Jeffersonville, NY 12948.
Noting seven conditions of the permit, NYS DOH said it "is granted subject to any and all applicable state, local and municipal laws, ordinances, code rules and regulations. ... The facility [must] comply with all conditions on the order of consent issued by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). . . . Only the main building, Wilhelmina, motel building and casino are approved for occupancy."
William H. Illing, a professional engineer in Woodbourne, submitted a facilities site plan (dated July 11) to "clarify and update information set forth in the revised site plan prepared by Alvin Adler."
In addressing the issue of water use, Illing said in a June 29 letter to Leonard Meyerson of the NYS DEC Region 3s Division of Water that the existing open sand filter area of the old hotel's wastewater treatment system is approximately 5,000 square feet with a SPDES limit of 16,500 gallons per day (GPD).
William Froelich of Kenoza Lake lives near the hotel and is concerned about his well running dry.
"It ran dry last year, and you have more guests this year," he said. "It's a valid concern, and I'm worried about possible development down on the flats that would completely drain down the water."
Illing replied that, at present, the facility is using an estimated 30,000 GPD.
Meltzer and Illing stated that efforts were underway to locate and fix leaks in the hotel's water system and implement water conservation, thus reducing daily usage to approximately 16,000 GPD.
The Town of Delaware Planning Board is scheduled to discuss the application for a special use permit to operate the former hotel as a recreational facility at its next regularly scheduled meeting next month.