Hiking Trails

Winston Farm development in Saugerties needs careful consideration

SAUGERTIES — Developers looking to build a $600 million “mixed-use destination spot” just west of the State Thruway are to face extensive review by City Council after determining that the project could have negative impacts on its environment.

The site is planned on the 840 acre parcel of Winston Farm in the village of Saugerties and would include a 10,000 seat amphitheater, adventure park, multi-unit housing, technology park, campgrounds and trails hiking, with lots for single-family homes and estates. It is being developed by three local businessmen, John Mullen, Anthony Montano and Randy Richers, who bought the land in 2020 for $4 million.

The project has sparked local opposition, with residents challenging its size, its impact on the natural environment, and its potential impacts on residents’ already strained drinking water supplies. Beautiful Saugerties, a citizens’ group formed to oppose the project, has 350 members, according to co-founder Andy Cowan.

Saugerties Town Council led the review process and determined that the project had the potential for “adverse environmental impacts”, referring to the effects the development could have on its natural and man-made environment.

Development projects, especially large ones, usually receive this designation in New York, which triggers a lengthy review process. Saugerties Mayor Frank Costello said earlier that he expected the process to cost developers millions of dollars as they commission studies and pay lawyers.

The developers have stated that they plan to receive this designation. “We remain committed to working closely with leaders in our community and the Town of Saugerties on the details of the project,” Winston Farm spokesman Josh Sommers said in a statement.

The plot, which is over a square mile, was the site of Woodstock ’94 but has remained in its natural state since then as various projects by previous owners failed, in part due to community opposition . About a third of the property will remain open space, according to a concept plan filed by the developers in June.

Residents who oppose the project said they know and like the developers, but the development would harm the community and the environment.

Marjory Greenburg-Vaughn remembers when Woodstock ’94 was held at Winston Farm, and attendees tore down the chain-link fence that sounded the concert and ran wild through the village. She feared the amphitheater would draw similar crowds and the music would be projected through the village by the acoustics of the venue.

“It’s an invasion of Saugerties for profit,” she said.

Water supply concerns

One of the main issues raised by residents was the potential impact on the community’s drinking water.

A reservoir supplies water to the village and town of Saugerties, but is barely enough to meet current demand. The developers have proposed to “construct an additional wellhead, water treatment facility and distribution system on the Winston Farm property to provide a much needed secondary source to the village and potable water for the project. of Winston Farm”.

But a study commissioned by Catskill Mountainkeeper and published this month reveals that there is not as much water in the aquifer as once thought. Kathleen Nolan, the organisation’s senior research director, said a potential deal for the development to provide water for itself and the community “is good, but the numbers don’t add up”. .

The development would use 500,000 gallons of water per day, which equates to about 42% of peak demand for the town and village, so the well would need to pump nearly half the amount of water that is brought from the reservoir by municipal water. system. In addition to depleting its own water supply, drawing so much water from the aquifer would impact surrounding residential wells, Nolan said.

Residents also had issues with the impacts the project would have on the environment, both locally and globally. Winston Farm is part of 1,186 acres of connected forest land mapped by the state’s Hudson River Estuary Program and is home to a wealth of flora and fauna.

Margarita Asian noted that forestry development leads to climate change as carbon sequestering trees are cut down, and paving on land also prevents carbon dioxide storage. “We need to think globally and act locally,” she said.

The review process that developers must go through can take up to two years.