By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO June 21, 2005 Michael Kaplan and companys big plans for the Monticello Airport have the full support of the Town of Thompson Board.
The current question is how much input the board will have in the projects development and how much ownership the town may take of the property.
Kaplan, the managing partner of the investment group with a 50 percent interest in the 650-acre parcel, made a presentation to most of the town board on Thursday.
His present proposal is for a minor league team and baseball stadium, 1.1 million square feet of retail space, a movie theatre, an ice rink fit for a hockey team, as well as ice skating. Kaplan would like the Monticello Central School District to use the ice rink for a hockey team or to develop a hockey league since the closest is in Newburgh.
Kaplan and his group purchased the property for an undisclosed amount, although the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency approved a mortgage tax exemption based on a purchase price of $3.2 million. Kaplan said that number could be higher by todays post-closing.
On Thursday, he offered to give part of the property to the town for use as a park, neighborhood recreation center, or for hunting, fishing, and camping as part of a preserve.
Much of the land is heavily wooded, and approximately 125 acres is comprised of wetlands.
Town of Thompson Supervisor Anthony Cellini jumped at the offer and said the project could be a joint venture between the town and the developers.
This is an opportunity where the town could have the facility, he said.
Cellini called for an executive session between the board and developers in the future to discuss a possible partnership between the two. It was also mentioned that Sullivan County Community College possibly could become involved.
Kaplan responded that he was willing to donate part of the land to the town, which would therefore come off the tax rolls. According to IDA attorney Walter Garigliano, the developers plan to apply for a broad spectrum of tax breaks in the future.
Kaplan, the former counsel to Louis Cappelli (who exchanged the Concord Resort and Grossingers Hotel in return for major stock holdings in Empire Resorts), said that he believed traffic could be one of the developments largest issues. The airport is located on Cantrell Road, off Route 42 in the Town of Thompson, near Forestburgh. He plans to build wells on the site, as well as a sewage treatment plant.
The minor league team would be part of a Canadian-American League. The team would play 42 home games as part of an 84-game season. Michael McGuire, a local attorney, and former assistant attorney at the Sullivan County District Attorneys office, would be in charge of the minor league teams operations. He has much experience in the minor league system and was previously involved with the defunct Catskill Cougars, who operated out of Baxter Stadium in Mountaindale.
McGuire said the location of Baxter led to its failure. He believes the new location will be more favorable. However, he noted that similar teams in New York such as Elmira, Glens Falls, Newburgh, Utica and Waterbury, CT have been unsuccessful. The annual operating cost of the team was estimated by him to be at $1.5 million.
Cellini summed up his feelings on the project by stating, We have to offer our community something.
Currently, there is a hunting club on the premises, and reportedly there is a bear population nearby. Kaplan said the hunting camps lease would be extended for another year. Once construction begins, they would have to move elsewhere and whatever activity remained at the airport would be shut down.
Kaplan expects to submit a proposal to the Town of Thompson Planning Board in the next month. He added that his plans would not be predicated on the development of any casinos in the town or county.