Story by Lourice Angie
In recent weeks there has been growing discussion and heightened concerns over plans for the nearly 10-acre property occupied by the Pulpit Rock site on the corner of West St. and County Rte. 1 in Warwick.
An application for site plan approval and a special use permit for the property, which includes plans for a 21,269 sq. ft. hotel no higher than two stories and six eight-unit cottages, has been submitted to the Town of Warwick Planning Board by NADA LLC, and has since caused a clash in opinions and interests between several Warwick residents and the developer.
Development is in Early Planning Stages
Chairman of the Warwick Planning Board, Ben Astorino, reports that the Pulpit Rock Inn site is still in its infantile planning stages. There are several steps to complete through the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) before proceeding.
“We will handle it the way we handle every application. The property is zoned for this, but I don’t have the specifics of how it’s going to turn out. It is important to recognize the steps of the Planning Board process. It is a thorough and often lengthy one. The hysteria doesn’t make any sense, because it’s going to go through the process and there will be a public hearing. There’s a code that needs to be followed, the Planning Board doesn’t write the code we follow it. At this point we have a sketch application before us and it’s under review,” Astorino said.
About three years ago, NADA LLC owner and developer, Stephen Kitar, purchased the Pulpit Rock property which is zoned Suburban Low-Density (SL) in the Town of Warwick. He plans to name the project the Pulpit Rock Inn.
The owner explains that his objective is to provide essential accommodations in support of Warwick’s major tourist economy, but some residents are concerned that the development of hotels would threaten the green gateway that leads into Warwick.
“I would like to assure those people [who have voiced concerns], and the rest of the community that preservation of the site is of the utmost importance to us and has been our main focus while planning the project. Building on that history is what we are trying to do, while introducing a new concept and a new generation of hospitality establishment and show that it can be seamlessly incorporated into an existing community without compromising its character. It has been done successfully before in historical neighborhoods like ours,” Kitar said.
Concerns Over Plans at Pulpit Rock
Warwick resident Timothy Hull recently wrote a letter to the editor that was published in the Warwick Valley Dispatch citing a number of concerns over the proposed plans. Hull says that 2,000 sq. ft. is not “in any way shape or form” to be considered a cottage. Hull agrees that Warwick needs more accommodations for tourism, but strongly opposes to that type of development being built at the Pulpit Rock location.
“The development is not a smart location for a hotel. It would obscure the views of the iconic, megalith rock at the gateway into our Village. These green gateways into the Warwick Village help create the special, rural character that attracts visitors and residents alike,” said Timothy Hull.
He added that there is, in fact, historical and anecdotal evidence of its importance to Warwickians throughout time as seen on postcards and reported in history books, newspapers, and word of mouth.
Many citizens believe the proposed hotel will have a major impact on the traffic in a school zone at the West St. and County Rte.1 intersection.
“Do we want a motel with transient people living and walking on the major route to an Elementary, Middle and High School? A high occupancy motel causes more traffic at the entrance into the Village, it is not realistically walkable to our downtown, so it will result in more traffic in our downtown,” said Hull.
Kitar responded to Hull’s concerns by saying, “I wouldn’t want to do anything to harm Warwick. I live here with my family and I understand and respect the historic significance of this area and the beautiful buildings that were part of its history.”
Other concerns include the impact of long-term-stay hotel rooms with regards to sewer/septic systems and water supply; noise pollution; and, the fate of the property in the event the proposed business plan fails.
According to Town of Warwick Historian Dr. Richard Hull, Pulpit Rock is definitely one of Warwick’s important cultural icons with Native American, colonial, and post-colonial significance.
“It is an impressive and unique natural monument that has been commented upon and photographed over the last century and a half,” said Dr. Richard Hull.
Dr. Hull asked why the developer has not approached him for historic information, nor has he reached out to the Historical Society’s director of archives, the head of the Albert Wisner Public Library’s archives, the past and present Village Historians, or any key local history and archeological buffs.
The owner says that he’s taken progressive action with the State and contracted professionals to conduct historic, archeological, environmental and traffic studies, which found no impediments to the development site. He says he was never directed to, nor is he legally obligated to source information from any person or group in particular.
According to Kitar, the people contracted to conduct studies on the Pulpit Rock property were all legitimate and qualified professionals. The results of those studies, he said, will be available for public viewing through the Town Planning Board as they are processed.
Kitar Open to Answering All Questions at
Kitar is open to answering all questions brought forward with his engineering firm, Lehman & Getz, during a public hearing as part of the overall Planning Board approval process.
“When I think of the word ‘sacred’, I think of Ground Zero post-9/11 or a holy land or a place of worship. What we are proposing is to incorporate a new concept in hospitality into the existing Warwick community without compromising its character,” said Kitar.
Kitar also pointed out that the proposed project would create jobs, bring in tax revenue, and promote tourism, all while preserving Warwick’s history.
Marie Pennings, who also wrote a letter to the editor which was published in the Warwick Valley Dispatch, regarding the historical significance of Pulpit Rock, formerly owned by the Pennings Family Trust.
“A hotel in front of Pulpit Rock is an insult to all of us in Warwick,” Pennings wrote. She encourages the local citizenry to quickly raise funds and buy out the present owner.
Additional Information On the History of Pulpit Rock
A new web guide on the history of Pulpit Rock has been compiled by the local history department at the Albert Wisner Public Library. The topic guide draws from the extensive digital collections that the library has on the local community, “Warwick Valley Heritage,” which includes documents, photos, newspapers, audio and video files. The content is available at: http://guides.rcls.org/pulpit or visit www.albertwisnerlibrary.org, and click on the local history button. For additional assistance, call the help desk at 986-1047, and choose option 3.
Planning Board Meetings
The Town of Warwick Planning Board meets on the first and third Wednesdays of the month at 7:30 p.m. The meetings are held at Warwick Town Hall, 132 Kings Hwy., in Warwick. The public is invited to attend to listen to the proceedings.