Concerns raised for White Lake Mansion House

Posted 2/14/23

WHITE LAKE, NY — The second meeting of the public hearing for the White Lake Mansion House project, which seeks to build a resort and spa at the site of the historic building in the Town of …

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Concerns raised for White Lake Mansion House


WHITE LAKE, NY — The second meeting of the public hearing for the White Lake Mansion House project, which seeks to build a resort and spa at the site of the historic building in the Town of Bethel, brought more questions than concrete answers.

The planning board closed the public hearing after taking extensive comments from the public, with the stated intent to consider another public hearing when more information was set in stone. The applicant’s attorney, Jacob Billig, gave the board assurance that the applicant would waive the requirement for the planning board to make a determination within 62 days of the public hearing’s close.

The waiver, and the questions raised during the public hearing, sets the board up for an extensive process for the review.

Watersheds and roadways

The applicant entered plans from the earlier application, proposed by Panero Associates in June 2012, as its submission to the planning board, with the addition of a new cover sheet from Keystone Associates, the project’s current engineering firm. In an introductory letter to the board, Billig wrote, “the Applicant seeks to build the Project exactly as approved by the Board in 2013”.

The specter of the project’s 2013 approval hung over the public hearing, both as a reason to approve and as a reason for concern.

“The Environmental Protection Agency reports that stormwater runoff is one of the top causes of water pollution in the country,” said Sharon Silverman, a member of the Smallwood Civic Association’s lake committee, in a prepared statement read by Paula Moss. The erosion and the pollution caused by stormwater runoff can harm local fish and waters, said Silverman, and the White Lake Mansion House project adds 4.2 acres of impervious surfaces just across 17B from White Lake itself: “The amount of stormwater runoff that will be generated from an area this large is tremendous. Streams, lakes, and tributaries within our watershed are at serious risk.”

In part two of the EAF, town engineer Glenn Smith marked that the project may have a significant impact on surface water due to the potential for soil erosion.

The sewer outflows from the property have their own potential to impact the surrounding watershed.

The EAF listed 12,400 gallons per day of liquid waste generated from the property. Smith stated during the public hearing that the outflow from White Lake Mansion would only add two percent to the amount of sewage handled at the town’s plant, an increase well within its capacity; he did not mark it as a potential impact on the EAF.

The increased sewage could have an impact further downstream, according to Silverman. The sewer plant empties its treated effluent into White Lake Brook, which runs into Smallwood’s Mountain Lake. The Smallwood Civic Association already has issues maintaining the health of Mountain Lake, given the impact of the treated effluent and from unregulated sewer systems in Smallwood and the surrounding area, she said.

Planning board chair Jim Crowley acknowledged the issue of the sewer outflows while emphasizing the impact of the unregulated sewer systems.

The project’s proposed wells additionally came under discussion, with residents worried about the impact the White Lake Mansion House’s water usage would have on their wells.

Billig referred to a 2012 report in his opening comments: the property had a 35-gallon-per-minute well (gpm), and the peak capacity of the project would be 30 to 33 gpm. The applicant would update the report as needed, but it is “fair to say there was a prior report done no change in situation,” he said.

The EAF lists the anticipated water usage at 12,140 gallons per day, and states that the applicant will drill wells that produce approximately that amount.

Members of the public pressed for a thorough study. Planning board member Michael Cassaro agreed; he wants to see the applicant conduct testing in the busy months of July and August, not as a condition of approval but as a prerequisite.

For traffic, as well as for water usage, Billig referred to work done during the earlier approval process: a traffic study at the time had shown that the project  generated around 55 cars at peak. The applicant will be updating that report, Billig said: it will be for the engineer to determine whether traffic has significantly changed.

The traffic was definitely not the same 10 years ago as today, said Charles Greenhouse. As a volunteer firefighter living off 17B, he’s had difficulty pulling out of his driveway on nights that Bethel Woods has a concert, with bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours. “I think they should do a very good study,” he said.

Plans for the White Lake Mansion project include 72 units, spread out across two buildings, and a basement spa.
Plans for the White Lake Mansion project include 72 units, spread out across two buildings, and a basement spa.

Occupancy and use

Members of the public expressed concerns about the potential occupancy and use of the project.

The White Lake Mansion project involves multiple buildings, Billig told the public at the start of the meeting: a replica of the White Lake Mansion House to host “conference rooms, offices, a small retail component, dining and other miscellaneous services,” and “two proposed hotel style buildings… (which) have a total of 72 rooms.”

“Most hotels that are built you see when you pass the highway, they’re generally 100 to 125 rooms,” Billig added. “So this is a 72-room hotel, which is on the smaller side.”

Members of the public challenged that statement, pointing to statements made in the project’s documentation that described the 72 units variably as suites or as multi-family residences.

The project’s Environmental Assessment Form, submitted by engineer Ken Ellsworth for the applicants, describes the project as “commercial-spa, office space, dining as well as residential hotel space.” To the question, “Does the project include new residential uses?” the applicant marked “Yes,” and wrote 72 units under the heading “Multiple family (four or more).”

When the project came before the board in 2012, the original presenter had described it not as a hotel, but as a set of suites that people would be able to purchase and use for a certain amount of time, similar to a timeshare, said former town board member Denise Frangipane.

“I’m a little concerned that these... are gonna be summer suites, and they don’t share their facilities with public,” said Lisa Schick.

The applicant has hitherto not been identified for the project. WLM 17B LLC, listed on documents as the applicant, has a mailing address of 199 Lee Ave. #1020, Brooklyn, as listed on the Department of State’s corporation lookup. An article from 2016 in the New York real estate news site The Real Deal identifies that address as the mailing address for hundreds of Orthodox landlords.

When asked by the board to confirm the status of the White Lake Mansion House replica building, Billig stated that it was a public facility, with the restaurant, offices conference rooms and the like for the public’s benefit.

White Lake, Bethel, White Lake Mansion


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