By Dan Hust
BETHEL Own property in the Town of Bethel?
You could help fill a need for lodging and make some money at the same time.
Sullivan County’s hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts are already reporting full houses for the Memorial Day weekend series of Phish concerts at Bethel Woods.
That’s prompted Bethel town officials to re-examine their camping laws, and recently the board agreed to institute a $50 fee for those wishing to obtain a “temporary camping” permit.
While any property owner in the town is already welcome to pitch a tent on their land for themselves and their families free of charge, Bethel is now promoting a little-known part of its code permitting as many as four campsites per parcel of private property for up to two weeks at a time.
Supervisor Dan Sturm confirmed that the Phish concerts spurred this move, though he said the law itself has been on the books for years.
“I thought this was a reasonable way to approach the coming year,” he explained this week.
But this is the Town of Bethel, where the owners of Max Yasgur’s farmstead Jeryl Abramson and Roy Howard battled with officials over several years of Woodstock-themed gatherings on their land, which involved music, performances, vendors ... and camping.
Though Sturm said an injunction remains on the couple to not mount repeats of that event, he indicated he has no problem with them renting out space to campers this summer.
“We’re going to treat everybody the same in Bethel,” Sturm promised.
Indeed, Abramson and Howard are already advertising their property to people eager for accommodations close to Bethel Woods in this case, about two miles away.
“We have five parcels,” Abramson confirmed this week. “We applied for five permits. That allows us 25 tents or RVs.”
Actually, said Sturm, the permitted campsite amount is four per parcel, not five. He said a typo in the permit documents and some confusion on the town’s part led to the inaccurate “five-per-parcel” amount being cited to permit applicants.
Word on the street is that the town will go easy on those who allow five campsites instead of four, but Sturm indicated the code should be followed.
“We will be there [at campsites] to enforce it,” he affirmed, noting potential fines of between $250 and $1,000 per day.
(There’s another easy way to avoid that Sturm said people can rent out rooms in their homes.)
About 15 permit applications have been received thus far, Sturm related, with the code enforcement officer already signed up for duty the entire Memorial Day weekend.
The town, he added, is ready for the tens of thousands expected those three days, and he’s optimistic visitors and residents alike will enjoy themselves.
“Bethel Woods has stepped up and met with us,” he affirmed. “I think we’re working well together. We really can’t ask for a better partner.”
Abramson hopes the town keeps going in what she feels is a more positive direction.
“This is something we have advocated for for many years,” she said. “We believe this will help generate revenue for landowners and the county. It’s really a win-win situation. It supports Bethel Woods, the town, the guests and the landowner.
“As the home of Woodstock, it is almost a necessity for Bethel to relax the restrictions that make sleeping outdoors a criminal misdemeanor according to Bethel code.”
Abramson joined Sturm in looking forward to the Phish weekend.
“Although we have been warned that this could be a potentially raucous crowd, so far, every Phish Phan I have spoken to has been polite, courteous, respectful and grateful to be coming to Bethel,” she remarked. “I'm looking forward to meeting them all.”
To be charged $50 apiece for the weekend, they’ll be staying in the woods on her and Howard’s property along Route 17B in Bethel.
“I can't imagine that this would be anything other than a benefit to us. I hope this will be a successful event for Bethel Woods and Sullivan County,” she said.
“... We continue to support anything that will bring business to Bethel and Sullivan County,” Abramson added. “As longstanding taxpaying citizens of the community, we just want the opportunity to participate.”