Expects to use temporary tent in 2022, 2023

The Philipstown Planning Board continued its review on Oct. 21 of a plan by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival to move next year from its longtime site at Boscobel to a new space at what is now The Garrison golf club.

The Planning Board has been reviewing a state-mandated Environmental Assessment Form for the project, which addresses its impact on traffic, wildlife and other issues. The HVSF has presented a series of updates to the form to address concerns and questions raised by board members and as studies are completed.

In its latest revision, presented at the October meeting, HVSF said that:

■ A permanent theater tent it hopes to construct at The Garrison would seat 530 people, compared to the 540 capacity for its tent at Boscobel. It also would like to construct an indoor theater that would seat 225 for performances from April to late October, and possibly in December for the holidays. “It is expected a maximum of seven performances per week” would be staged in each of the theaters, with Tuesdays dark and two shows on Saturdays, HVSF said, along with occasional school matinees.

■ An analysis found that The Garrison property provides about $166,000 in annual tax revenue, including $97,000 for the Garrison school district, $31,000 for the county, $29,000 for the town and $9,000 for the fire district. Because HVSF is a nonprofit, part of the property would be removed from the tax rolls. The data shared with the Planning Board estimated that about $76,000 in revenue would be lost, including $45,000 by the school district; $14,000 by the county; $13,000 by the town; and $4,000 by the fire district.

■ The festival said, if its proposal is approved, the first phase of construction would begin in January 2023 and conclude by May 2024. That would include a Snake Hill access road; a permanent tent; a back-of-house structure for actors; meadow seeding; and 225 parking spaces. The initial changes would also likely include a traffic signal at Route 9 and Snake Hill Road, with state approval.

■ Under that timeline, HVSF said, “the applicant acknowledges that the 2022 and 2023 seasons are in jeopardy. HVSF faces an existential crisis as to both its fiscal and theatrical sustainability if it cannot operate at the subject property on an interim basis.” It said it has applied to the town for approvals to erect the tent used at Boscobel at The Garrison.

■ The restaurant at the club, which will be owned by the festival, would be open six nights a week when the theater is operating, as well as for lunch and on weekends. The Garrison banquet hall would continue to host 125 to 150 events a year.

■ While discussing its plan to build housing for performers, HVSF told the Planning Board that “under no circumstances” would artists be sending children to the Garrison or Haldane school districts. The units are not intended for artists to move in with their families, it said, but to “accommodate union requirements to offer artists a place to stay while they are contracted,” which would typically be between April and October.

■ The festival said that while its property would not be a public park, “the applicant intends to continue the current policy of allowing passive-use access for neighbors to walk their dogs, snowshoe in the winter to gaze at the stars.”

■ It said that restaurant and banquet facility operations would continue year-round, with peaks from June to mid-October. The “absolute maximum” occupancy of the site would be 1,211 people, although the maximum expected, including staff, would be 1,124 people “five times per year or fewer and mostly on a Saturday.” On busy summer weekends, the average occupancy was projected at 979.

■ HVSF said it anticipated it would initially employ about 175 people (rising to 250) during its peak season. It expects to initially employ 120 people in the banquet hall, restaurant and hotel during peak season and 40 during the offseason.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

A former longtime national magazine editor, Rowe has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Idaho and South Dakota and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Northwestern University. Location: Philipstown. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.