Philipstown Planning Board Updates

More work ahead on HVFS move, Horton Road subdivision

The Philipstown Planning Board welcomed fall by continuing its review of two large pending projects on Route 9: The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival plans to transform The Garrison golf course property into its new home, and Horton Road LLC’s efforts to create an upscale 25-house subdivision in North Highlands. 

Both projects consumed most of the board’s 2.5-hour Zoom meeting on Sept. 16. The panel’s next scheduled meeting is Oct. 21.


HVSF plans to relocate next year to The Garrison site from Boscobel, where it had held summer performances since 1988. It plans in several phases to create a cultural-arts campus on the property, which was donated by Chris Davis, who owns The Garrison. The golf course is closing. Along with Planning Board approval, HVSF needs a zoning change from the Town Board.

With approvals, HVSF plans to open its 2022 season in a temporary tent; repair entry roads; install a driveway and stream crossing from Snake Hill Road; upgrade the parking lots; add lighting; and do basic landscaping.

The Planning Board has been plowing through the project’s state-mandated Environmental Assessment Form, which, with appendices, fills 68 pages.

On Sept. 16, Aaron Werner and Chris Robbins, from AKRF, a consulting firm retained by the town, asked for more information from the applicants on the temporary tent; how the plans align with the zoning code’s Scenic Protection Overlay; and more on HVSF’s assessment of any wildlife habitat fragmentation.

In addition, Planning Board Member Neal Tomann and town engineer Ron Gainer inquired about the status of a small dam on the property; Gainer also sought more information on stormwater management.

Neal Zuckerman, who chairs the board, asked about vehicle trips to and from the site. “The volume of traffic is my primary concern,” he said. “I’d like to see the total number of people and, therefore, vehicles” when all operations are underway – performances, weddings and events, a hotel and restaurant, diners and so on.

Highlands Reserve

Launched in 2014, plans for Hudson Highlands Reserve, envisioned as a small community with a horse-riding center, were addressed at a 2019 public hearing, where some residents expressed misgivings.

The project, on about 210 acres bounded by Horton Road, Route 9 and East Mountain Road North and South, then went into hiatus, as the sponsors, the New York City-based Horton Road LLC, drafted responses to the feedback. It scrapped the equestrian center, moved the location of a couple of homes and prepared a draft Final Environmental Impact Statement that the Planning Board took up in July. 

AKRF advised the applicants to provide more details on the development’s effect on Route 9 traffic and the reaction to the plan by the state Department of Transportation, which must grant a permit. It also wanted more on stormwater management, wetlands-related matters and fragmentation and penetration of forests.

The developers’ recent mention of East Mountain Road North as an option for accessing the site drew attention. “I’m certain that coming out onto East Mountain Road North is something the public will not react to in a positive way,” said Board Member Kim Conner.

Richard O’Rourke, an attorney for Horton Road LLC, said using East Mountain Road North is only a possibility and that “it’s up to the Planning Board to decide what the access should be.”

Glennon Watson of Badey & Watson, a local surveying and engineering agency, said the developers would tinker further with the environmental impact statement before presenting a revised version to the board.

8 thoughts on “Philipstown Planning Board Updates

  1. The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival was an integral part of my childhood in Cold Spring. As a child, seeing a play under the stars was a dreamy experience filled with possibilities. Growing up, HVSF provided me with more possibilities as a staff member. During my five years with the nonprofit theater, I watched a vision for both the theater and the community emerge from conversations to a plan to tangible action. It has been a powerful evolution I have had the privilege of helping to work towards in my many roles within the festival, most recently as a development assistant.

    Community outreach and environmental sustainability have been totemic to this vision. Change can be uncertain, but HVSF’s move from Boscobel to their new Garrison location is a step forward. It will create 50+ seasonal staff jobs, aid to enrich education partnerships with local schools, and strengthen HVSF’s cultural reach as an environmentally sustainable theater campus, all while making space for the restoration and conservation of the land currently used as a golf course — which historically are drains on resources.

    I have complete faith in this project and the good it will bring in the future. Our community’s children deserve the same awe-inspiring moments I was afforded in my childhood. For our children to enjoy the quality of life we so want for them, we must support organizations with a plan for change. This move will give HVSF the opportunity to continue to affect change in the Hudson Valley, benefiting Philipstown greatly.

  2. I urge the Planning Board to reject the Hudson Highlands Reserve subdivision proposal for the following three reasons:

    The proposed development’s effects on aquifers and waterways haven’t been sufficiently established. The Planning Board should request an up-to-date assessment of existing water conditions of this site and a management plan for protecting the water features during and after construction.

    The subdivision notes suggest that there may be some mechanically pumped non-gravity fed septic systems for the proposed home. These will be vulnerable during our area’s many power outages. I’d like to request that no wastewater pump systems be permitted for this project.

    The two Subsurface Sewage Treatment Systems proposed (SSTS) – which requires a fully cleared area and no trees — may make the site’s water vulnerable from any SSTS failures. One of the proposed SSTS has a perimeter that exceeds the natural boundaries and is located outside the recommended developable land. The planning boards should request that all SSTS areas be placed within the “developable land area” and that the design, size and placement of the SSTS systems be presented to and approved by the Conservation Board.

  3. This development of 25 new $1 million plus homes is coming for our neighborhood. What does this mean? Years of noisy and dangerous speeding construction trucks exiting and entering onto Route 9 from East Mountain Road North, which is the proposed access road? The road on EMRN for the access to the development is a steep driveway, certainly a hazard in the winter with ice!

    Route 9 is a very dangerous road. I was in a bad accident involving three cars on Route 9 where someone made an illegal left turn in front of me and I was going the stated speed of 55 mph. This was not far from EMRN. The cars that line up to get on Route 9 in the morning is no picnic. Now add 25 houses to the mix, plus all the delivery trucks, construction vehicles and others on the road and it is going to be unbearable. This is a recipe for disaster. I hope people will join me in opposing this development. As a 21-year resident of the North Highlands, I am frightened for our future.

  4. East Mountain Road North cannot absorb additional traffic caused by vehicles from the proposed 25 luxury homes, their guests, caretakers, housekeepers and years of construction. It is a narrow road and a school bus route. The intersection with Route 9 — in a 55mph zone — has already become increasingly busy and dangerous. Turns in and out of Route 9 result in long wait times during rush hour, often with multiple cars lining up in either direction.

    The developer should be held responsible for creating an access road from Route 9, as proposed in 2019. I hope that the Planning Board will request a proper traffic study and give the affected residents a chance to voice their concerns in an additional public hearing.

  5. Hudson Highlands Reserve has applied for permission to develop 25 new homes under the Open Space Development Code, adopted in 2011. A big concern is that the proposed entrance off of Route 9 and the alternate access off of East Mountain Road North show that there will be construction on land that has more than a 35-degree slope, which far exceeds what’s permitted by code. The building footprints and house lots are up to the toe of steep slopes and may require additional steep slopes removal and earth stabilization.

    I hope the Planning Board will require a revised subdivision plan that addresses the steep site access issue, reflects actual disturbed land areas, and significantly reduces the amount of steep slopes encroachment and required earth stabilization. In addition, local residents should be given the opportunity to voice their concerns of the proposed alternate access on East Mountain Road North in an additional public hearing.

  6. I have been a resident of East Mountain for seven years. There are several concerns I have about this proposed project.

    First, there needs to be a traffic study done on the impact on East Mountain Road North. That road is quite narrow and the proposed access point is a blind curve. Twenty-five luxury homes with two cars each going in and out of there is a recipe for disaster. Plus, all the large construction vehicles will be going in and out of there as it is being built. It can barely handle two regular-sized cars going opposite directions as it is. We definitely need another public hearing about this development with this huge change of access point proposed.

    In addition, I am concerned about the conservation subdivision precedent. The steep slopes make much of the land impossible to develop anyway. Do we really want to consider that conservation subdivision? With more homes now allowed than a regular subdivision, I don’t see how it is conserving anything. And who is going to pay for the issues that arise when roads go out or waterways overflow because of the extra homes that would be there? Please consider another public hearing regarding this project and the residents it will most affect.

  7. Although there are many issues about the Hudson Highlands Reserve Project that deeply concern me, my focus is the applicant’s proposed change of the development’s primary access point from Route 9 to the existing driveway off of East Mountain Road North (EMRN). As someone who travels this route every day, this location on EMRN is NOT a suitable to the proposed development for the following reasons:

    1. A prior traffic study was done for the entry point from Route 9. A change in access point has not been studied. The applicant has not shown that EMRN can handle the additional traffic.

    2. The intersection of Route 9 and EMRN is already dangerous, and it is nearly impossible to make a left turn onto EMRN when traveling south on Route 9. As the speed limit there is 55 MPH, it is a site of many unfortunate car accidents. A development with 25 houses would increase the dangers at the entry point.

    3. EMRN is a Haldane School bus route, with the Route 9 corner serving as a bus stop. Any additional traffic could be a safety hazard for our school children.

    4. EMRN is a narrow, curvy road that prohibits commercial vehicles over a certain length and weight because they can’t negotiate the turns. If EMRN is the access point to the development, how would construction and maintenance vehicles access the site? In addition, there is a curve in the road prior to the access point which would increase the hazard at the point where the cars would pull out of the development onto EMRN.

    5. The creek that runs along and under EMRN floods when there are severe storms, which have only increased over time. After the recent Hurricane Ida, large chunks of EMRN were cut away from the edges of the road from the stream, and the road was impassible. The bridges that cross from the road to homes were destroyed, cutting off access to the homes at the bottom of the mountain. The existing driveway, which would be the access point off of EMRN, is on a steep slope. If widened and paved, there would be considerable water run-off onto EMRN. This would result in ice build-up in the winter, additional flooding to the homes at the bottom of EMRN and sediment into Clove Creek.

    6. The nature of the project has changed with a possible different access point. Using EMRN as a prime entry was not in the original plan, therefore a second public hearing should take place so the community can weigh in on its effects.

    7. Finally, EMRN is a country road, and making it an entry point to a large development would considerably change its character.

  8. The fact that the Planning Board is still reviewing the proposed HHR project exposes fundamental flaws in the adopted Open Space Development code. Nothing like the HHR could be proposed if the code had been properly detailed to protect its mission. From 175-19 A. (1):

    “The purpose of the open space development options in this article is to preserve large tracts of open space land in order to maintain the rural appearance and environmental resources of the Town of Philipstown. These options are intended to offer development alternatives to landowners that avoid the uniform pattern of conventional subdivision, sometimes referred to as “suburban sprawl.”

    What is “suburban sprawl”? It’s this: “The most frequently cited feature of sprawl is the abundance of large-lot (usually 1-5 acres depending on the development context), residential housing developments that consume large amounts of previously vacant or productive land.” (

    The proposed HHR project does not preserve much land that is not already protected by steep slopes or watershed restrictions. What it does do is create an array of 1 acre lots (yes, “suburban sprawl”) into almost all of the relatively flat and dry areas of the site. The residential zoning code in this area was written to limit sprawl with a 10-acre per house minimum. This abuse of the code, putting in 25 homes each on 1 acre will thus create sprawl, no prevent it. There is something fundamentally wrong that a code supposedly written to help preserve open space actually encourages its opposite. No more rural appearance, no more maintenance of environmental resources, no more public benefit, only profit and gain to a small group of wealthy individuals.

    It’s time to amend the Open Space Development code.