2011: Half Moon Planning Board Discusses Use of Apropos with NXIVM representative

04/11/2011 Planning Board Meeting Minutes Half Moon New York regarding the planned change of use of Apropos from an Internet Cafe open to the public to a private meeting facility.

What is interesting about these minutes is that it seems clear that the planning board is well aware of the Cult of NXIVM but are reluctant to bring it up. It is like the 800 pound gorilla in the room that nobody mentions. On the other hand Bronfmans amd Cafritz own the property and have a legal right to use it within the zoning…

04/11/2011 Planning Board Meeting Minutes 14

1.029 OB Apropos, 1475 Route 9 – Change of Use,

Mr. Keith Burke, representing the owner of Apropos, stated the following:

I am here tonight representing the owners of Apropos. I have submitted the additional requested information from our last meeting. I’m hoping that that addressed the questions that you had about the activities.

Mr. Watts stated the following: We have people here in the audience tonight who are not privy to this information. So, you are making a presentation for a change of use for your facility so why don’t you tell us what your proposed uses are going to be.

Mr. Burke: The uses are at the desire of the owners, which is Claire Bronfman, her sister Sara Bronfman and Pam Cafritz. They originally intended to open up the facility as an Internet Café but unfortunately that has not prevailed. At the discretion of the owners, for individuals that would like to go into the facility and have a birthday party, a social evening and as I have said in my note to you, there are events that are associated with seasonal times such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s etc. Nothing would be scheduled in the facility other than the owners who would typically use it once a month themselves to have a business meeting, which is typically on a Sunday afternoon or early evening. Other than that, it is just a facility that is used at the discretion of the owners and it would be a private use.

Mr. Watts: The prior use that you were approved for was as an Internet Café and this is a new use this way. So, if you wanted to go back to being a 24-hour Internet Café, you would come back before this Board with a new application.

Mr. Burke: Yes sir.

Mr. Higgins: I have been at all of these meetings and this is the first I’ve heard the other 2 names as far as owners. Is this owned by a corporation or is the deed in all 3 names?

Mr. Burke: From my understanding, the deed is in all 3 names. I think it is owned by a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC).

Mr. Higgins: And are all 3 members listed as members of the LLC?

Mr. Burke: Yes sir.

Mr. Watts: The application that we have here indicates the property owner is NXV Trust, 457 New Karner Road, Colonie, NY.

Mr. Burke: Right.

Mr. Higgins: So they’re the members of the trust, the trustees of the trust and the beneficiaries of the trust.

Mr. Burke: I don’t know all those answers for you and I believe that they’re owners and beneficiaries of the trust.

Mrs. Murphy asked Mr. Williams: if the Planning Department had an authorization showing that these people have the authority to ask for this use.

Mr. Williams: Yes it is in the file and it was signed by Claire Bronfman.

Mrs. Murphy: So you do have the owner authorization.

Mr. Watts: We have the owner authorization as Village Hall LLC (Apropos) and it authorizes Keith Burke to bring this application before us and it was signed by Clare Bronfman.

Mr. Burke: Right.

Mr. Ouimet: So, wouldn’t that be the applicant; Village Hall LLC?

Mrs. Murphy: That is who is here.

Mr. Ouimet: Right and that with the change of use 04/11/2011 Planning Board Meeting Minutes 13 request as titled.

Mrs. Murphy: Yes.

Mr. Watts: Yes, you have the business; the project name and then you have the property owner. I’m not an expert in corporate law so you may have the business operated by one entity and the property owned by a separate entity, which I believe is what we probably have here.

Mrs. Murphy: Which is fine. I just wanted to make sure that they had the owner authorization form.

Mr. Berkowitz: What occurs at a typical business meeting?

Mr. Burke: I don’t attend them and it’s not my business. It’s between Clare, her sister Sara and Pam Cafritz. I can’t answer your question in precise terms.

Mr. Berkowitz: Would it only be the 3 of them in a business meeting or would there be more people at a business meeting?

Mr. Burke: It would not be a large meeting; it would be a small gathering.

Mr. Berkowitz: Would that be 90 people or 5 to 10 people?

Mr. Burke: No, it would be about a half of dozen people to as many 10 people.

Mr. Nadeau: What type of business are they in? Is it real estate?

Mr. Burke: They do have other properties that they own collectively, so they could be discussing that.

Mr. Nadeau: That’s what I’m saying; is it a real estate business?

Mr. Burke: I’m probably really not the person to answer that for you.

Mr. Nadeau: But aren’t you representing them?

Mr. Burke: If they would be talking about the Apropos facility of maybe an upcoming event and somebody wanted to use it, how are you going to use it and how are they going to set it up. I could give you something in that order.

Mr. Nadeau: You’re representing them but you don’t what type of business they are?

Mr. Burke: I’m representing them for the application and the events that I know they take place at their authorization with the facility.

Mr. Nadeau: I’m confused.

Mr. Watts: In the application that was submitted and it’s in the file, the narrative stated “as for the number of people that attend these events, that can range from as little as 5 to a maximum of 90+. The facility has a permitted parking space for 91 vehicles and no event will exceed the parking capacity and all attending will park in the allotted space”. So, is there going to be 90 people; at one point you gave us higher numbers and then you gave us lower numbers? So, as long as the parking isn’t spilling out onto Route 9.

Mr. Nadeau: In the application there’s nothing there that says it’s a birthday cake company or a real estate company.

Mr. Watts: The narrative stated that there are social events such as Sunday brunches, birthday parties, and evening dinners.

Mr. Nadeau: Typically when we have an applicant, they tell us what their type of business is and I’m a little confused, as we don’t know what it is.

Mr. Roberts: This is the second time this poor guy is going through this with us and I feel that he is confused. How come the owners aren’t here to answer our questions? I think that would clear up everything.

Mrs. Murphy: I don’t think you’re telling me that they’re operating a business from this site. They are doing professional business meetings and there is no business being run from this site.

Mr. Burke: Correct, there is no business being run at this location.

Mrs. Murphy: Would there be any outside storage?

Mr. Burke: No.

Mrs. Murphy: Would there be any manufacturing?

Mr. Burke: No.

Mrs. Murphy: Would there be any light industrial work being done?

Mr. Burke: No, nothing of that nature at all.

Mr. Berkowitz: Is their business a business meeting?

Mr. Burke: Like I said, the owners will have a meeting typically once a month there.

Mr. Roberts: About what?

Mrs. Murphy: We don’t care what their meetings are about. It is a conference room that they are using for meetings. We care about how many people are going to be there and we care that it meets the fire code.

Mr. Roberts: Would those meetings be open to the public?

Mrs. Murphy: Mr. Burke is saying no. It’s a private meeting for a business. Most people pay money for that type of thing but Mr. Burke is saying that they are going to offer it for free. The business is the four walls that they allow people to use for birthday parties and for meetings. I guess the word “business” is what’s throwing us off; it’s a meeting hall.

Mr. Burke: That is correct.

Mr. Roberts: So I guess it would be social gatherings.

Mr. Burke: Correct.

Mr. Ouimet: But they’re not in the business of renting this “hall” for any particular purpose; be it birthday parties, Thanksgiving Dinner, Easter Dinner, a business meeting or whatever?

Mr. Burke: No.

Mr. Ouimet: So; they are not in the business of renting the space either for compensation or for gratis?

Mr. Burke: That is correct. They’re not in the business of renting the facility.

Mr. Higgins: Approximately, what would be the hours of operation?

Mr. Burke: When I’ve attended, they would usually start around 7:00 to 8:00 pm and it would be over by the midnight range.

Mr. Watts: The application stated that you would be open 24 hours a day, which is what we previously approved with the Internet Café.

Mr. Higgins: Are you going to be open 24 hours a day?

Mr. Burke: When I’ve been there, they usually have a dinner and a social that starts at 7:00 pm and it’s usually over by midnight.

Mrs. Murphy: Is that a business social?

Mr. Burke: No, it’s a private event.

Mrs. Murphy: They would be meeting the fire code, they are meeting the parking regulations, they’re not having outside storage and nothing that he is proposing is a use that is not allowed in that area. You don’t normally ask someone what the content of the business is?

Mr. Roberts: But we do ask what their business is.

Mr. Nadeau: Every applicant that comes in I ask what type of business they would be running.

Mrs. Murphy: They would be running a meeting hall.

Mr. Ouimet: But they’re not.

Mrs. Murphy: We don’t care if the business is for profit or not. As long as they’re in compliance with your code, which having meetings, having private gatherings, etc. it fits in your code and they meet your parking requirements. The code now has enough to determine the type of structure necessary to be in compliance with Building Code. They’re not serving alcohol, they’re not preparing food, and they’re having the food catered so the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) is going to have separate rules for them. There is adequate sewer, there is water on-site and your obligations have been meet. We don’t need to know exactly what it is they’re meeting about.

Mr. Roberts asked Mrs. Murphy: if she feels the Board has heard enough to act on this proposal.

Mrs. Murphy: When you have a Internet Café, they were there for the internet but you don’t know what they were doing in meetings in the back because that didn’t matter. As long as you knew they were going to have meetings in the back. Now the meetings are in the front.

Mr. Roberts: Would the kitchen be used for a source of catering?

Mr. Burke: Yes, the kitchen would be used if a caterer came in and used the kitchen but it is not used by people who are not in the business of catering.

Mr. Higgins: So the preparation of food would be off-site, the caterer would bring it in and then just serve it out of the kitchen.

Mr. Burke: That is correct.

Mrs. Murphy:  Yes, that what the application says.

Mr. Ouimet: So if we were to approve this application, we would approve merely the fact that they can use this space for what they’ve come to us to say they want to use it for?

Mrs. Murphy: Right and there are no outside activities permitted.

Mr. Ouimet: We’re not approving the use of the kitchen?

Mrs. Murphy:  Unless there is a caterer. The caterer was mentioned in the application and the NYSDOH has been there and there is a NYSDOH approval.

Mr. Ouimet: Okay, the NYSDOH has been there and they got an approval to run a vegetarian restaurant and an Internet Café. Now they have withdrawn that and they’re now saying that they are not running an Internet Café and we are not running a vegetarian restaurant. They want to use the structure to hold gatherings. So, are we being asked to approve the whole ball of wax or just the gatherings?

Mrs. Murphy: Just the gatherings.

Mr. Ouimet: So in essence we’re not approving the sale of food, we’re not approving an Internet Café and we’re not approving a 24-hour open operation.

Mr. Nadeau: We would be approving the 24-hour operation.

Mrs. Murphy: They could have meetings until 3:00 am in the morning if they want. They cannot have outside gatherings, they can’t sell alcohol, they cannot store things outside and they are not selling food.

Mr. Roberts: So they have fulfilled their obligations?

Mrs. Murphy: I can’t answer that for you. You, as a Board, have to determine whether or not you are comfortable with this proposal.

Mr. Watts: With our review of this, we are fulfilling our obligation as the Town of Halfmoon Planning Board when we approve or disapprove this application.

Mr. Berkowitz: Could they have activities at this location that were bought or paid for at another site? For instances, their main office is located on New Karner Road; so if somebody pays for something at New Karner Road, could they transfer that up to Apropos?

Mrs. Murphy: As long as they’re underneath the 90 maximum attendees and they’re not cooking for them.

Mr. Ouimet: So, are we saying that whatever we approve will have the maximum occupancy of 90?

Mrs. Murphy: Yes, that is in their application.

Mr. Ouimet: They have said 90+.

Mrs. Murphy: They have to give a firm figure.

Mr. Burke: I’m not sure what the fire code is for that facility but I think it is in excess of 90+.

Mr. Roberts: You have to give us a number.

Mr. Burke: There would not be an excess of 90 people.

Mr. Watts: Well, it could be whatever you want but our fire code people would go to the site and based on the size of the building and they can tell you what the maximum load is. We look at that at any facility and that is part of our fire inspection.

Mr. Ouimet: So, if it’s going to be more than 90 and it has parking for parking for 91 vehicles, how much can it be and when does it exceed the allowed parking area?

Mr. Watts: On what basis did we calculate the parking?

Mr. Williams: The fire code is 1 person per every 15 SF, so it would probably be up in the hundreds.

Mr. Ouimet: How many parking spaces do they have.

Mr. Berkowitz: They could have 5 spaces for 5 buses and they could have 500 people in there.

Mr. Williams: If they have 91 parking spaces, then you are assuming that all 91 people that have come there bring their own vehicles.

Mr. Ouimet: The site has 91 parking spaces, so they can’t park any more than 91 cars there. We have no idea how many employees or how many owners representatives will be there. How many people would be serving or monitoring whatever meeting or function or party or catering function or whatever is going on. So, we don’t know how many of those spaces would be dedicated to staff. Consequently, how many spaces are going to be designated to other people who don’t normally associate with staff? It’s kind of like a cloud.

Mrs. Murphy: If the Board wants to pick a number based on the parking, then that is a reasonable process for you to go through. Because you can articulate a reason as to why you’re limiting the number based on the parking. For instances, the Elk’s have 800 different organizations come in there and have meetings. You don’t ask them what organizations are coming, how many people they’re going to have and what they’re going to serve. You don’t do that so, I don’t see why this would be any different. I can see saying 90 is your limit because you have 91 parking spaces. You can say 85 is your limit because of the 91 parking spaces.

Mr. Roberts: Mr. Burke just said 90.

Mr. Ouimet: I don’t want to suggest an artificial limit because the applicant is coming to us saying that this is what they want to use their business for.

Mr. Higgins: What was the occupancy when we had it approved for the Internet Café?

Mrs. Murphy: But that didn’t happen.

Mr. Higgins: Who puts up the occupancy signs saying that this can be occupied by a certain number of people?

Mr. Watts: Our Code Enforcement Officers do that. When we had Apropos, we had 5 full-time employees and 4 part-time employees. Code Enforcement goes to the site and they look at the restrooms and the facility and they make sure that everything is in compliance.

Mr. Higgins: So, after this is approved by this Board, would the Code Enforcement people go to the site and would they put up the maximum occupancy sign on the wall?

Mrs. Murphy: In this particular application, it would make sense.

Mr. Watts: If we give approval to this I would say, that we give the approval and indicate in the approval process that should we have issues where they exceed the parking and we have parking issues, that the Planning Board has the authority to re-visit the maximum capacity of this building. If I see or we get complaints that there were cars out on Route 9 or they are parked over in Crescent Commons or wherever, I’m sure we’ll hear from people. I would be willing to revisit the issue as Code Enforcement and Planning.

Mr. Roberts: Like I said, a few minutes ago Mr. Burke said 90, so why don’t we stay with the 90 and put a parking contingency in there as well.

Mr. Watts: That’s fine.

Mr. Roberts made a motion to approve the change of use application for Apropos with a condition on no outside storage or activities, a maximum of 90 attendees at any one event and the Planning Board retains the right to to re-visit the site/use if parking ever becomes an issue.



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What goes on inside Apropos?

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[…] NXIVM also had a strip mall restaurant. The group used it, not for slinging hash, but for training or meetings or whatever, which probably confused locals. […]

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

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