By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO February 26, 2002 Thanks to the events of September 11 and several months of inactivity at the Concord Resort Hotel site, questions have cropped up regarding how large the new hotel will be, if it will house a casino or a convention center, whether there will be a monorail or even if anything will happen at all.
Concord developer Louis Cappelli came before the Town of Thompson Planning Board on Thursday, February 21 to answer some of those questions. The meeting was reconvened from the regular meeting held on February 13.
"I am here to tell you where we are and what is happening," Cappelli told the board. "We have spent $50 million to date. We are not waiting for gambling. We are not leaving town. We are here to stay."
Utilizing a historical timeline, Cappelli explained that the money spent so far was on land purchases, demolition, and asbestos clean up. Though he has said in the past that he is unsure of what he will do next, the current plans resemble the originals that Cappelli submitted two years ago.
Cappelli explained that the events of September 11 halted the entire project. He had a deal with the Westin chain to run the hotel, but that was put on hold by 9/11. Cappelli also stated that, after the governor signed the gambling legislation on October 31, he had been inundated with inquiries about housing a casino.
Cappelli stated firmly that he did not want a casino at the Concord. He does want, however, to take advantage of the fact that his hotel will likely be in between two casinos.
"We will have amenities the other guys don't have. We can be successful, he explained. We can't just sit by and wait for it. It would be dumb on our part."
Cappelli was before the board to get site plan approval. However, it is still unclear which direction he is going in. The hotel might start off with 567 rooms or it could have 1,500 rooms. Cappelli stated he wanted to see what happens with the casinos before he decides how big it will be. It will also include a convention center, the golf courses, a spa, and riding stables totalling at least $237 million (a drop from his original $500 million projection). It will also take two and a half years to construct.
Future considerations include a monorail to transport guests to the casinos. Also, he is looking at establishing rental housing units for his employees.
After the presentation, Town Engineer Richard McGoey asked about some of the unresolved issues, like the roles of the Empire Zone (EZ) and the Industrial Development Agency, and consolidating the properties. While Cappelli is waiting on EZ designation, he is hoping for some abatements from the IDA. Supervisor Tony Cellini asked him to reconsider that, as the town does not want any IDA real property tax abatements.
After some debate on that issue, McGoey, Cappelli attorney Richard Stoloff, and the board sought the advice of their attorney, Josephine Finn.
"I see this as a planning issue, not a legal one," Finn said. "I can't tell you what to do."
Cappelli explained that he was not looking for an answer that day. He wanted to update them on the project and give them time to mull it over. Cappelli promised to appear before the board again at their March 13 meeting.
Officials that were in attendance were intrigued by what they had witnessed.
"This is extremely exciting," commented Cellini. "Let's make this happen. We need the Concord back."
"I am excited the project is still on track," District 9 Legislator Jim Carnell Jr. remarked. "Hopefully, it is just a matter of time before he breaks ground."
"This is very exciting," Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jacquie Leventoff said. "Many businesses are reliant on the Concord. It is encouraging. It would be prudent to take a wait-and-see attitude."
Cappelli gave all Planning Board members maps of what he intends. He told them to contact him if they have any questions before he returns on March 13.