Portland board takes heat for handling of campsite

PORTLAND – After more than two years, there is still no movement on a proposed campground site in the town of Portland. At a special meeting Thursday, resident Jerry Speelberg asked the town board to meet with him to discuss his proposed campground.

“I asked for this meeting with the town board because I find it really difficult (to believe) the town board really knows what is going on with the planning board and the code enforcement officer,” Speelberg said.

Speelberg purchased about 70 acres on Woleben Road and has plans to build cabins on the site which will be used for commercial purposes. Speelberg has said the town’s planning board has put up obstacles to prevent him from completing the project. Town Supervisor Daniel Schrantz said the town has been in support of the project, as long as Speelberg follows town procedures.

Among the list of requirements needed were photographs every 20 feet due to the creek, a study regarding squirrels and a list of all trees that were removed from the property, among others. He said after numerous delays, the project got site plan review, and later a variance for the sprinkler system and an access road for emergencies.

“We have enough papers to go forward. Every time we are told that, five days later we get another list. That’s how it went through the years,” Speelberg said.

Speelberg quoted Planning Board Chairman Robert Patterson saying the planning board does not deal with environmental issues. He made reference to a project regarding hazardous waste which was approved by the planning board. Another problem the site has had is requirements for fire code; Speelberg would have been required to put in a private access road for emergencies. Speelberg has since split up the parcels of the property, as per New York state requirements, so there is no more than two buildings on one parcel. By doing so, Speelberg will no longer need a private access road.

Speelberg’s lawyer, Daniel Gard, said in the final stages of the project will include applying for commercial permits and constructing driveways. Gard said they have already applied for residential permits and they were assured by the town to transfer those permits over to commercial permits would not be a problem.

“I can’t wait to see how far the town of Portland is willing to go beyond what the state requires for driveways. The reason why we are here today … Jerry and I have been talking for two years. We cannot believe the town board knew everything that was going on and allowed this to happen. … This is the last ditch effort to let this project go. This is a good project. It’s supposed to be a feel good project,” Gard said.

Schrantz apologized to Speelberg for the process taking years and encountering several delays. Schrantz said the project has been changed several times causing the delays. Every time the project was changed, the project had to go back to the planning board.

“There are definitely things that have happened along the way. There is fault in both ways … We want the project, unfortunately it did take this long and I apologize for this. I can’t even tell you the last time a campground got put in the town of Portland. The Planning Board did the best they could with what they had …,” said Schrantz. “I apologize it did take so long but I welcome your project wholeheartedly.”

Councilman Al Valentin also said he is in support of the project. He said anytime there is a project that comes before the town, certain processes and procedures have to be followed. Similar to Schrantz, Valentin also apologized for the delays.

“We always said from the beginning it was a worthy project. There are certain things to get something done; there are processes et cetera. To be fair, I would say on both sides things were not consistent and that’s what caused the delays. If you’re out to get something done, it requires cooperation especially if you’re working with the town. … I apologize for it taking so long,” Valentin said.

The town board did not act on the matter Thursday and will discuss it at a future date.

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