Conversation about expanding a commercial ropes course in Glenville was put on hold Wednesday when the Town Board imposed a temporary moratorium for permits on projects in its rural residential and agricultural districts.
Last year, Michael Cellini proposed building Mountain Ridge Adventure — a ropes course at the corner of Johnson and Weatherwax roads on his 50-acre plot in West Glenville.
The site is within a rural residential and agricultural zoning district. Glenville town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said the current zoning law allows noncommercial recreational activity in the area, but not commercial.
“The language in the current code is vague, so the Planning Board didn’t have any basis to distinguish between the two,” Koetzle said Wednesday.
Because of the ambiguity, the Planning Board approved Cellini’s original 1-acre design in August, but in October, Cellini requested to triple the size of the course and subdivide his property into two lots — one for his home and a new, empty lot where the ropes course would be.
Cellini aimed to open the course in April, but the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting makes a spring opening unlikely.
Cellini was not present at the meeting and did not return calls afterward for comment for this story.
This past spring, the town began redoing its comprehensive plan for the first time since 1991, Koetzle said.
“Some of our zoning and the stuff in the comprehensive plan is outdated since it was last addressed, so we undertook the mission of rewriting it, which is a process,” he said. “Throughout the process, it became apparent there are a few things to address while we finish it.”
Wednesday night, the board unanimously voted to impose a temporary moratorium on permits for projects in rural residential and agricultural zoning districts that require conditional-use permits and site plan reviews.
A similar temporary moratorium was renewed for permits in research development and technology zone districts for “adult businesses” including pawn shops, thrift stores, vapor stores and massage parlors.
The moratoriums are in effect for six months, Koeztle said, and will expire in June, when the town hopes to have the new comprehensive plan complete.
“With the moratorium for adult businesses, nothing was brought forward that would indicate an immediate concern, but we’re being proactive,” Koetzle said. “The other moratorium wasn’t about this one ropes course project, but that project has highlighted the concern in the way the code is worded to protect West Glenville from commercial development.
“Loose definitions, like what’s allowable outdoor recreation, is what we plan to address in the new comp plan,” he added.
Koetzle said the moratorium does not negate the original approval Cellini received for the 1-acre ropes course, but puts the brakes on the proposed expansion.
During the public hearing before the vote, several residents spoke in favor of the moratorium on new projects in rural residential and agricultural zones.
“We need to slow down and take a look at how something like this ropes course would impact the area and the people there,” said Barbara Riggi, who lives next door to the proposed site of the rope course. “The course is just going to change everything up there. I love the wildlife I have in my backyard, and love seeing the baby deer. I’m afraid the noise will make us lose that part of our community.”
“I am not opposed to real estate and am fundamentally pro-economic development and pro-job creation, but those activities must be done sensibly with community consensus,” said Joe Berman, a resident of Waters Road.
Doug Shepherd said the town’s zoning language is ambiguous, and he hopes it is made clearer in the new comprehensive plan.
“There are things now that didn’t exist 20 years ago when it was written,” Shepherd said. “I’ve lived in West Glenville for 25 years and I don’t want to see its rural nature change — it’s why I moved there.”
Bob Van Flue has lived in West Glenville for almost 60 years, and said it used to be the country, but isn’t anymore.
“It’s become a suburb from our perspective, and we don’t need it to go more in that direction,” he said. “The farmers around Storytown let Storytown go through, and now it’s the Great Escape.”
The moratorium passed with a unanimous vote and afterward the audience responded with loud applause.
Before voting, Councilman Jim Martin said he agrees with the residents who spoke during the public hearing.
“We have a very special, rural area in our town, and I agree completely that those are at risk,” Martin said. “The purpose of zoning is to protect the health, safety and welfare of any community, and I want to state my support for the welfare of our community and the welfare of our rural areas in particular.”