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Dan Hust | Democrat

This .42-acre parcel in the heart of Youngsville was purchased by the county from Katharine Knapp late last year, after having suffered flooding from the next-door Callicoon Creek (East Branch). The apartment house will be demolished and the property may be sold, perhaps to the Youngsville Fire Department, if the county does not retain it for highway purposes.

Flooded properties bought by county, soon up for sale

By Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY — January 12, 2010 — Sullivan County now owns 11 flood-ravaged properties, mostly in Jeffersonville and Livingston Manor.
As a result of the state’s Greater Catskills Flood Remediation Program, the county was able to purchase these homes for a total of $1.5 million, according to Assistant County Attorney Tom Cawley, who made a presentation to legislators on Thursday.
“Once we demo[lish] the properties,” he said, “we’ll be able to transfer them.”
The state will reimburse the county for all its expenses, while the county will be able to keep the profits of the sales.
The properties were bought throughout late 2009 from willing sellers eager to unload homes and land repeatedly devastated by flooding in the past five years.
Twenty-five properties initially applied, and county staff whittled that down to 15, said Cawley, after rejecting parcels with liens larger than their value and verifying that the rest had flooded at least once since 2004.
Four more properties dropped out after their owners deemed the county’s offer insufficient or otherwise unwanted.
“The purchase price was equivalent to the appraisal, minus any monies they [the prior owners] got from FEMA, SEMO or insurance and didn’t invest those [monies] back into the property,” explained Cawley.
One parcel in Youngsville, an apartment building at the corner of Route 52 and Shandelee Road, may be retained by the county for a Division of Public Works (DPW) staging area, said Cawley, though he added that’s up to DPW Commissioner Bob Meyer and legislators.
The other ten parcels will be put up for sale after demolition – a requirement of the program.
“Some of these are beautiful Victorian houses,” acknowledged Cawley. “It’s a shame, but we have no choice.”
The state, he said, wants to ensure people’s lives and homes are not endangered again, so it’s also forced the county to put severe deed restrictions on each parcel.
No matter who purchases the land, they will not be able to build homes or any other structure considered incompatible with open space, recreational, flood mitigation or wetlands management uses.
In other words, the properties will pretty much have to remain devoid of buildings.
“These parcels are going to be hard to market other than to municipalities because of those restrictions,” acknowledged Steve Vegliante, Fallsburg’s new town supervisor.
Cawley said some neighbors have expressed interest, but the towns of Fallsburg, Callicoon and Rockland and the Village of Jeffersonville may prove to be the most eager buyers.
Vegliante said he and other town officials will soon take a look at 7 Community Road in Woodbourne, the only parcel in their town under this program.
Jeffersonville Mayor Ed Justus plans to do the same with the four parcels in his village.
“We’re looking for parking, mostly not so much for every day but for events,” he explained on Friday.
The four Jeff homes are also in the Town of Callicoon, while in Rockland, three homes are along the Willowemoc in Livingston Manor, and two are near the Beaverkill in Roscoe.
Callicoon and Rockland each have new supervisors – Tom Bose and Ed Weitmann, respectively – and will be getting correspondence from the county about the availability of parcels in their townships.
Bose said yesterday that while the township may or may not be interested in any of the properties, the Youngsville Fire Department is eyeing the half-acre Youngsville parcel as potential parking space.
Weitmann said Rockland probably won’t pursue these properties, as the town already undertook its own flood buyout program and is still sitting on four or five parcels.
He added, however, that the county-owned properties have generated interest from neighbors and others, so those may sell quickly.
On Thursday, Legislator David Sager said he wants the county to develop a “best-use scenario” for each property.
“Let’s look at what benefits the community in the best way,” he recommended.
Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon said he’d get to work on it.
In the meantime, the county will pay the amounts just sent out in the January tax bills (including the new solid waste user fees) but hopes to have the properties at least demolished – if not off its hands – by March 1, Taxable Status Day, said Cawley.

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