Phoenicia Hotel neighbor irked by lingering mess

By Jay Braman Jr.
The owner of the property behind the site of the former Phoenicia Hotel has had enough of the waiting and hoping for a clean up of the rubble next door. She wants to build an oversized fence between her land and the heap of debris that was the former hotel.
Trouble is, the law only allows for a fence to be six feet tall, and Lawrence Webster, who bought her property just one month before the historic hotel went up in flames two years ago, told the Shandaken Zoning Board of Appeals that she needs one to be eight feet high to shield the unsightliness.
At a zoning board meeting last Wednesday the zoners granted Webster a variance from the six-foot height law.
“I’m residential and the hotel property is commercial,” she said. “I’m just trying to put a buffer between the two zones.”
Webster adds that the fence is meant to mitigate the effects of the not just the hotel, but the entire business district.
“I love the community, that’s why I bought my property,” Webster said, adding that although she supports the thriving commercial district and wants to see it remain strong, she also needs to protect herself from three elements: visual, auditory and “basically dust.”
While hotel property owner Declan Feehan does not say specifically what he intends to do on the land, in the past he has spoken optimistically about building a new hotel on the site with a pub. But, those plans were dashed on the rocks when Phoenicia voters shot down a proposal to build a sewer system. Because the vote followed a volatile battle over the system, one which led to a confusing array of both information and misinformation about the project, the City of New York, which is funding the construction of the $17 million system, agreed to keep open the option to build the system. At present the town is focusing on convincing the city that an alternative waste system made of vegetative filtration beds could work for the community, but the city has not yet agreed.
This puts Feehan’s plans in limbo, as a treatment system is needed in order for him to build a hotel. Feehan is keeping a close watch on the process.
In the meantime the Shandaken Area Revitalization Project has offered to help fund the clean up of the property.
Webster said some loads of the rubble have been removed recently, but there is still plenty more to go.
She said that she wishes the town would take a more active role in the clean up of the property.