Dan Hust | Democrat
This 4,400-square-foot home along West Shore Road in Bethel will become the Conservatory at Bethel Woods. A grand opening is planned in June.
By Dan Hust
BETHEL April 16, 2013 The Conservatory at Bethel Woods is soon to open.
The nonprofit performing arts facility gained a needed zoning change from the Town of Bethel Board Wednesday night, clearing the way to open what essentially will be an education center.
The building already exists, having been constructed as a 4,400-square-foot home in 1997. Located across West Shore Road from Bethel Woods’ Harvest Festival grounds, the palatial house is within walking distance of the main complex, as well.
“It’s gorgeous,” affirmed Bethel Woods CEO Darlene Fedun on Friday, “and we think it would be so inspiring for our young people.”
Youth will be the first beneficiaries, as this summer, a range of children- and teen-focused programs will be shifted from the Museum/Events Gallery building to the Conservatory, including Broadway, opera and jazz classes.
“We found we were competing with ourselves for space,” Fedun explained of the move to larger quarters.
An educational facility has been part of Bethel Woods’ plans from the beginning, and Fedun said workshops in music, art, set design and more are planned.
Longer-range ideas for the Conservatory are being mulled, as well.
“Anything is possible if the support is there,” she affirmed.
Bought for close to a million dollars by a subsidiary of Granite Associates in 2005, the house sits on seven scenic acres in Bethel. Three acres on the other side of the Harvest Festival between Hurd Road and Filippinis Pond are also part of the just-approved zoning switch from the town’s AG (agriculture) district to the PA (performing arts) district.
“A school is not allowed [as a principal permitted use] in AG,” Bethel Supervisor Dan Sturm explained.
He added, “These properties are taxable properties, and I believe they will remain taxable properties.”
A public hearing Wednesday night featured no oral comments, and three letters from the planning board, County Agricultural Advisory Board and Sullivan County Planning Division were all in favor.
The town board approved the zoning change unanimously, with Councilwoman Denise Frangipane recusing herself, as she works for Alan Gerry, the founder of Bethel Woods.