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Planning board grills ASTI executives; Forestburgh neighbors don’t want the noise

The limit for the number of people allowed in this meeting room the Forestburgh Town Hall is 35, but twice that number are jammed into the room to participate in a planning board meeting.
TRR photos by Fritz Mayer

By Fritz Mayer
July 31, 2015

Members of the Town of Forestburgh Planning Board on July 29 questioned executives of Advanced Skills Training Institute (ASTI), who are seeking a special-use permit to open what they call a recreational facility on a 300-acre parcel currently owned by developer Shalom Lamm. James Sherman, CEO and founder of ASTI, said a closing on the property is scheduled for the end of August.

In addressing what sorts of activities will be going on at the facility, Sherman said, “adventure race course, mountain biking, archery, marksmanship, fitness, health, wellness, motocross, ATVs, pistol, rifle; we’re going to have all of that.”

There was quite a bit of discussion about who would be the clientele. Sherman said mostly it would be members of the public who would want to be trained in how to do these activities. He added, however, that the facility might also be used to train law enforcement officials. Many of them, such as the Sullivan County Sheriff and the police chiefs of Liberty and Monticello, have signed letters of support for the project.

When planning board chair Susan Hawvermale asked Sherman for more information about training law enforcement officials he said, “My personal background is very specifically the highest level of Israeli hand-to-hand combat, by doing that I met top law enforcement and top military from around the world… and I personally teach law enforcement how to not choke people to death if they’re trying to arrest them….”

But the possibility that personnel at the facility might train police officers or other professionals caused some of the neighbors to question whether the facility could be correctly classified as a “recreational use,” which it would need to be in order to receive a special-use permit.

The town’s code enforcement officer, Len Wheat, has written a letter saying that he believes that ASTI does meet the definition, but that assertion was questioned by town resident Richard Robbins.

Robbins said, “If you look at their website and see the courses that they offer: in intermediate sniper, in advanced sniper and in beginning sniper, in evasion, in urban warfare… is that a recreational issue? I would suggest no interpretation of the concept of recreational use would characterize that as recreation.”