Sunday, April 21, 2024

Developers Denied a 40-Cabin Retreat in Frelinghuysen. Crowded Meeting went ’till Midnight

Brag Farm Retreat was denied a use variance, April 4th, to develop a retreat on the former 178-acre Sugarbarb property off Silver Lake Road, in Frelinghuysen.

Russ and Natalia Brag of Columbia proposed building 40 A-frame cabins, a 2-story, 7,500 square foot Clubhouse and a 6,000 square foot dwelling on a separate 27-acre flag lot. According to their use variance plan by Finelli Consulting Engineers, all were shown surrounding the existing 5-acre lake on the property and/or scattered along new drives throughout the heavily forested lot and pastures.

The Sugarbarb Farm property currently has three dwellings, a barn, 10-stall horse stable and several outbuildings. The property is zoned AR-6, Agricultural Residential 6-acre minimum lot size.

The Land Use Board meeting was held in the Frelinghuysen School Auditorium, April 4th, because a large crowd was anticipated since the Brag Farm Retreat application attracted an overflow crowd to the Town Hall last month. Indeed, a large crowd showed up and the meeting went nearly to Midnight.

Application documents also showed that Brag Farm Retreat wanted to host artists’ retreats, a small art gallery, painting classes and various art installations throughout the property.

Because it was a “d”, or use variance, the applicant needed at least five (5) affirmative votes from the seven members comprising the Board’s Zoning representatives. They failed to get that with four voting against the proposal.

Prior to the determination against the application, opponents to the development questioned how the shared septic systems for each structure would protect fragile ecosystems known to be onsite, as well as traffic.

Because they were seeking use variance approval to be followed up with the more in-depth testimony for their hoped-for Site Plan review, Brag Farm didn’t present an Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), Letter of Interpretation (LOI) or Traffic Study.