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An aerial view of the long-closed Smallwood Golf Course. Bordering the course at north is Ballard Road.

They come to the fore to develop old ‘links’

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — December 17, 2010 — Two proposals arrived on county desks Friday to redevelop the former Smallwood Golf Course.
Both county and Town of Bethel officials consider the nearly 200-acre property of important environmental value. A small portion of the land serves as a seasonal water source for Smallwood.
So when the property fell into county hands this year due to foreclosure, those officials saw an opportunity.
So did two groups of investors.
“We think this is a very compelling opportunity,” affirmed David Hoffer, managing director of Terra Capital Management, LLC. “We have a lot of experience with land conservation.”
Indeed, that’s the focus of his group, said Hoffer – to create a development balanced with nature.
“We don’t do pure development for development’s sake,” he explained of the conservation-oriented real estate investment fund.
The plan at Smallwood, he said, is to keep close to 75 percent of the property as-is, with the rest consisting of less than two dozen single-family detached dwellings.
Attracted by the county and town’s interest in doing something unique with the land, Hoffer said his team includes Randall Arendt, an author and expert on conservation.
Terra is also discussing possibilities for the property with the Open Space Institute to open up the undeveloped portions for public use.
“Our proposal contemplates they would be involved with the ultimate plan for this property,” Hoffer confirmed.
The other proposal is also a conservation development, one that could feature up to 45 residential units, according to local attorney Larry Wolinsky.
He represents a group of investors originally involved with Upstate Land and Properties, which lost the golf course to foreclosure earlier this year.
The head of that original effort, Robert Van Zandt, did not realize a controversial vision to site 200 units on the acreage, losing a court battle with the town.
Wolinsky said Upstate Land is no longer involved (this new group has yet to incorporate), though Van Zandt may be.
“I would imagine it would still involve him,” Wolinsky remarked, “but not in a principal role.”
The listed investors – Joseph Gensert, Anthony Rush and Lisa Rico – want to recoup their funds, he added.
“They already had made substantial investments into the property,” Wolinsky said.
Though current town zoning does not permit 45 units, the investors plan to collaborate with the town and county on something that’s mutually viable, hoping that officials will be agreeable to “bonus units” with attached or detached dwellings or a mix of both.
“The proposal conserves a huge part of the property,” Wolinsky pointed out, adding that his clients want a development “everyone can live with.”
Bethel Supervisor Dan Sturm, who lives just up the road from the golf course, is thrilled there are two proposals.
“I’m excited about the prospects,” he related.
He estimated the town zoning would permit between 25 and 30 residential units on the property but promised to work with whomever is chosen.
“We want something that’s taxable – as many homes as can fit on that property,” he affirmed.
Sturm and fellow town board member Denise Frangipane will meet on Monday as part of a committee the county is forming to review and assess the two proposals – separate from but similar to a committee doing the same with the former Apollo Plaza in Monticello.
Sturm anticipated the committee will at some point make a recommendation to the County Legislature, which has the final say.

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