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Farm stay is one use on property, town officials rule

Jan. 23—An Oneonta couple is one step closer to being able to open a campground on their farm in Oneonta, after the town Zoning Board of Appeals denied two claims brought by opponents to the project at its meeting Monday, Jan. 23.

Fred and Dana Clapper, owners of Clapper's Maple Ridge Ranch, want to build a campground on their 133-acre property at 184 Lower Reservoir Road, aimed at attracting people seeking an agritourism destination.

They face opposition from neighbors who say the increased activity would bring lights, noise and traffic that would be highly disruptive to residential life in the rural area.

The Clappers have owned the farm since June. They submitted an application for a site plan review to town Code Enforcement Officer Paul Neske for the campground in September.

The neighbors appealed to the ZBA, represented by attorney Douglas H. Zamelis, requesting an interpretation of Neske's decision.

Although campgrounds are an allowed use in the residential-agricultural zoning districts, the appeal to the ZBA stated that a use variance should have been required by Neske because the campground would be a second principal use on the property.

The appeal further alleged that a complete site plan was not submitted, and Neske allowed the site plan review to begin with the Planning Board in error.

The ZBA denied both of those claims Monday.

ZBA Chairperson David Prouty said Tuesday that the board took two unanimous votes — first to determine that the Clappers' agritourism business was deemed one principal use on the property and therefore doesn't need a use variance, and second to accept the site plan the Clappers submitted with the application.

The next step is for the town Planning Board to do a site plan review. The Planning Board will next meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 5.

Dana Clapper said Tuesday that the ZBA put some restrictions on their project — the number of campsites in the plan was reduced from 10 to seven, and all marketing must be geared toward agriculture and the farm stay.

"That's fine, because that was our intent with the campground, to have an agriculture-centered camp experience," Clapper said. "Overall, they're trying to take into consideration the concerns of the community while upholding the rights in the code."

David Koehn, of 252 Lower Reservoir Road, hasn't given up on stopping the project slated for one property south of his home.

Earlier this month, he submitted proposals to the Town Board to impose a one-year moratorium on review and approval of campgrounds in the town, as well as change the town code to remove camps and campgrounds as an allowable use in the town's residential-agricultural districts.

Koehn said Tuesday that the ZBA's decisions were "ill-considered, unfortunate and wrong. Town of Oneonta residents do not want campgrounds next door to their homes."

He also said that the decision "opens up all of the residential-agricultural zones to any form of commercial use that has an agri- prefix, whether it has to do with agriculture or not."

The town's Legislative Review Committee has been tasked with considering the moratorium and code change and meets next 5:30 p.m. Feb. 5.