Democrat File Photo by Dan Hust
MARTIN MILLER, ATTORNEY for developer Paul Savad, looks at a map showing a possible border discrepancy at the property his client wanted to use for a 42-home development in Cochecton. The map was presented at a recent Cochecton Planning Board meeting, but while the border may still be in question, the New Turnpike Road project itself has been shelved by Savad.
Cochecton Development Is Off The Table
By Dan Hust
COCHECTON November 21, 2006 A controversial project in Cochecton has been pulled off the table.
And a concerned citizens group apparently played a major role.
A November 16 letter sent to the Town of Cochecton by Paul Savad said the New Turnpike Road development proposal is dead.
“Due to the resistance of the town officials and residents to residential development in compliance with your zoning ordinance, we respectfully decline to proceed further with the project,” wrote Savad, a Nanuet attorney and developer who maintains a home near Ellenville.
“We have been well received by multiple towns in Sullivan and Ulster counties, who are sensitive to the need for quality housing and increasing their tax base,” he concluded.
While town officials had no comment on the letter, neighboring property owner Reid Badger said he was thrilled.
“I’m extremely pleased,” he remarked yesterday. “This would have destroyed the reason we bought our property.”
Reid and wife Lee Badger’s home sits on New Turnpike Road near its intersection with Cross Road and is surrounded on three sides by the 108 acres Savad and his Catskills Home and Land Developers company were planning to utilize for a 42-home development.
Houses valued around $250,000 would have been constructed in clusters on less than half that acreage, with the rest remaining open space.
But area residents rallied against the project, swelling town and planning board meetings to argue that the development would not be a boon to the township but instead take away from its natural beauty, quiet solitude and rural character.
Badger and his neighbors formed a citizens group called Keep Cochecton Rural, and he considered Savad’s letter proof that the group’s efforts which included a Website, www.cochecton.org were successful.
“This [project] galvanized them [local residents], because it would change the reason they were here,” he remarked. “The group had some impact.”
And he’s anticipating that impact will continue, as the group has no plans to disband now that the project in question is dead.
“I believe it will stay,” he said. “No one seems to think this is the last project that will be contemplated up here.”
However, Badger cautioned people not to think Keep Cochecton Rural is anti-development.
“The group is not against development it’s [against] inappropriate development,” he explained.
Toward that end, Badger said local citizens will be advocating for a review and possible overhaul of zoning laws and the comprehensive plan so as to protect what they treasure most about Cochecton: its rural character.
On the need for zoning changes, Badger and Savad actually agree.
Reached at his Nanuet office yesterday, Savad, a 25-year developer and 40-year attorney, said he got mixed messages from the township about what was permissible.
Although zoning allows one- to two-acre lots in certain parts of Cochecton, Savad found that public sentiment was largely against such clustered housing.
“If you don’t want us there, change the zoning,” he suggested. “Make the zoning five-acre. We’ll get the message.”
Instead, Savad said, he was greeted with hostile neighbors who treated him and his Monticello attorney, Martin Miller, like evil men.
“It was like a body slam,” he commented.
And while he holds no ill will toward Cochecton officials, he said the issue may scare away future developers.
“What did they win?” he asked. “... I already know people who aren’t buying property in Cochecton.”
And when it comes time for landowners to retire and sell their local holdings, Savad fears that no buyers will come calling.
“People didn’t even want their road paved,” he remarked, speaking of the semi-paved New Turnpike Road. “I never heard such a thing!
“I guess the town’s not ready for it,” he said of development. “I know if we persevered, we would get it, … [but] we want to go where we’re wanted.
“I blame myself, because we ignored the signs that were obvious because we were optimistic,” he concluded.
But his efforts will continue elsewhere, from two projects in the Town of Liberty to one on Burr Road in Bethel a mere five miles from the Cochecton site.
“We’re a quality company,” he said. “We’ve been welcomed in Bethel, Liberty, Wawarsing [in Ulster County].
“We follow the zoning ordinances 100 percent, we buy good property and we don’t ask for variances.”
Savad added that he’s considering two more projects in the Town of Thompson, near Monticello.
And he wouldn’t rule out a return to Cochecton in the future, should he deem conditions to be favorable to development.
Meanwhile, the 108 acres behind Badger’s house in Cochecton remain up for sale by owner Grace Segrell. The asking price is currently $500,000.