GHENT—The Planning Board discussed Art Omi’s application for expanding the Benenson Visitors Center on a Zoom meeting June 3. The board seemed happier with the attendance numbers presented by Omi at this meeting, but before voting on whether to approve the plans, the board wanted to discuss some conditions.
Art Omi, on county Route 22, submitted plans to board in the spring of 2019 to increase the size of the visitors center. The center, which is at the south side of the 120-acre outdoor sculpture park, currently houses a gallery, a cafe and administrative offices. The new plans would more than double the size of the building to include an educational center, a second art gallery and more office space for existing employees. Art Omi applied to modify the organization’s special use permit, which was granted in 2005 by the town.
The Planning Board closed the public hearing on the site plan in May of this year. At that meeting the board was concerned with the attendance numbers proposed by Art Omi for programs. Omi Director Ruth Adams said she misunderstood what the board wanted and at the meeting last week she said, “We are now presenting adjusted numbers.”
Planning Board member Dan Barufaldi thanked Ms. Adams for presenting the new numbers in a new narrative with charts and said the documents were very clear.
“This feels right to us too,” Ms. Adams said of the new narrative.
The board talked about the chart that deals with events outside the mission of the arts organization. Events that would include renting out buildings. Omi attorney John Lyons said that there will be no weddings at the site. He also said, referring to the rental issue, “There is no mission without money.”
Ms. Adams pointed out that some of the events listed in the narrative have only happened once in 20 years.
‘There is no mission without money.’
Art Omi attorney John Lyons
Other board members talked about concerns from community members that artwork at the site emits light and increases traffic on roads around the site.
The board reviewed the state Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) and gave the project a negative declaration, which means it does not have a major impact on the environment.
The board decided to hold a special meeting to discuss the conditions to include in any resolution approving modification to the special use permit. The Planning Board plans to meet over Zoom on June 16 at 7 p.m.
There will be information about the session on the Town of Ghent website https://townofghent.org/