By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO January 16, 2001 - Concord developer Louis Cappelli came to Sullivan County on Thursday with the intention to update a dubious Legislature on the projects progress, answer any questions, and clear up the disagreements between both sides.
But while a great deal of information was given out, some of those present had more questions afterwards than they did before.
Cappelli brought several members of his staff to the Sullivan County Legislatures Executive Committee meeting to provide a complete update on the project and to let the legislators know what he needed to finish it.
Last month, Cappelli fired off an angry letter at the county. In it, he stated that he feels he should be given a lower rate to dump debris at the county landfill. He threatened to take the debris and the project elsewhere.
The time is right to be here, a calm Cappelli told the legislators and the large crowd gathered in the hearing room. I wrote that letter in an angry moment. I apologize for the letter. Were very serious about moving forward.
Cappelli bought the Concord property two years ago. While many plans have been drawn up for the hotel, little has actually happened so far. A groundbreaking ceremony took place in October, and since that time, a small crew has been clearing out the buildings and taking care of asbestos removal.
Cappelli has divided the project into three phases. Each phase is contingent on the success of the previous phase. They will start with 567 rooms, he said. If there is a great demand, the hotel will be expanded to 1,000 rooms. If that is successful, they will eventually expand to 1,500 rooms.
Cappelli said he wants to turn the Concord into a world-class hotel with such amenities as a theater, bowling alleys, ballrooms, an indoor pool and restaurants. He said he wants to create and capitalize on the character of the hotel and the area.
Cappelli would also like to privatize Concord Road, in addition to having the county construct a convention center which would be connected to the hotel. It would have its own separate entrance and parking area. There would also be room for an underground parking area.
Cappelli stated that the convention center could be built in 18 months, and he hopes to have both open by fall of 2002. Once approvals are given, Cappelli said they could begin construction within 90 days.
To illustrate his point, Cappelli referred to his New Roc City project in New Rochelle.
When I approached the mayor of New Rochelle, he was very skeptical, Cappelli said. He must have thought that I was out of my mind. Maybe I was. I think we could be more successful here. It is just the tip of the iceberg.
Cappelli wants the county to pay for the center with a $22.5 million bond, which could be paid off in payments of $1.6 million per year. Cappelli added that he expects the county will rake in room taxes of $2.6 million per year. If the Concord expands, more revenue would naturally be generated for the county. But if they fail to bring in that much revenue, Cappelli said he will pay what is owed on the bond.
I have done projects for the last 27 years, Cappelli told the audience inside the government centers legislative chambers. I have never been as excited as I am about this one. I have also never been so sure [about a projects success]. The time and the area are right.
Legislady Leni Binder complimented Cappelli on his presentation, but she asked him what she should tell the other hotels who stuck it through tough times without having the county build them a $22 million convention center.
Cappelli answered that you have to start somewhere. He went on to point out that his project could begin the countys resurgence.
He also stated that he will not wait for gambling to come in if it ever does.
Cappelli concluded by saying he has a two-month window before he has to begin the project. In response, Legislative Chair Rusty Pomeroy stated that this project would be discussed in further detail at a special Executive Committee meeting to be held on Thursday, January 18, at noon, just prior to the regular monthly meeting at 2 p.m.