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Dan Hust | Democrat

The old Apollo Mall in Monticello, suffering from water infiltration, mold growth and instability, was attended to by the Sullivan County Division of Public Works last week. Workers cut down trees lining the decaying facade of the mall and replaced broken doors and windows with fences and plywood. They also cut grass behind the mall and cleared parts of the vast parking lot in front.

County has differing visions for Apollo

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — July 13, 2010 — With a price tag as high as $1.3 million to demolish the former Apollo Plaza in Monticello, legislators seemed more inclined to hand the sitework off to a developer or developers.
Through the course of several committee meetings on Thursday, the Apollo’s fate was discussed and debated, with Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon’s vision for a spectacular “gateway” to the county finding only modest support from legislators.
“I personally think it’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” Aragon remarked. “It is a fantastic location ... [and this is] an opportunity to change the course of our economy.”
Aragon’s vision includes turning the now-closed landfill behind the Apollo into a recreational attraction, including parks, trails and athletic fields.
About half a dozen parcels comprise the more than 400 county-owned acres being eyed for development at and surrounding the landfill, and at least three developers have already proposed retail, automotive and athletic offerings.
The county is considering such proposals, but Legislator Alan Sorensen – in whose district the properties sit – advocated for further study to solicit “realistic and focused” proposals.
He’s long been a proponent of a light industry park behind the Apollo, and he was adamant on Thursday that the county look at leasing, not selling, the site.
Sorensen also felt the anchor stores on either end of the old mall could be rehabbed rather than demolished, but about the only idea that found momentum Thursday was his suggestion to issue an RFP for just the 26-acre Apollo portion of the site.
Indeed, Legislature Vice Chair Elwin Wood and Legislator Leni Binder felt a project or projects need to be undertaken now.
“We have an offer,” Binder said. “... I don’t want to see another empty space that doesn’t generate taxes.”
Seeking to avoid the time and expense of further study, she reiterated that any project(s) at the site must meet local planning and zoning requirements.
As a result, Aragon’s interest in hiring a consultant to help his staff prepare more RFPs and better articulate the county’s vision met with lukewarm response.
“[We should] allow the marketplace to come back to us [with ideas],” observed Legislature Chair Jonathan Rouis, rather than risk creating an overarching master plan “that’s utterly unviable.”
Rouis and fellow Legislator Ron Hiatt also felt resurrecting retail at the site is vital.
“A retail component of this is the only thing that’s going to make this project fly,” said Rouis. “... If we get more jobs that can’t spend their money in the county, we’re going to lose revenue.”
No formal decisions were made, but meanwhile on Thursday, county employees were cutting down the trees in front of the Apollo and securing broken windows and doors with boards and fencing.

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