By Dan Hust
NARROWSBURG If he wants them, developer Ilwon Kang now has the right to purchase the entire Narrowsburg school complex.
And so far, it seems Kang indeed wants both the 80-year-old school and 14 unattached but nearby acres.
“We want to make Narrowsburg a destination,” he said yesterday, speaking of both himself and his team under the banner of his company, Gemini International.
He’s in preliminary discussions with the Hilton Hotels Corporation, which is known not just for its Hilton brand but for its Hampton Inn hotels.
“I’m thinking specifically of having a Hampton Inn there,” he remarked of the old school.
The nearby acreage would most likely be used for parking, Kang added.
And on Tuesday, the Sullivan West school board approved Kang’s $70,000 bid for those 14 acres, mostly athletic fields and forests between Kirk Road and Route 97 in Narrowsburg.
He’s already engaged in his due diligence on the Narrowsburg campus itself, for which he bid $700,000 late last year, along with $2.3 million for the Delaware Valley campus in Callicoon.
SW’s board approved those bids in a split vote in December, and on Tuesday, the board majority agreed to let Kang spend 60 more days completing his assessment of and plans for the properties.
SW Superintendent Ken Hilton said that due diligence period will thus end around July 4 at which point Kang will either have to make a decision on completing his purchase of the properties, or ask for another extension.
Board member Noel van Swol, who was the only dissenter in both votes Tuesday, worries Kang may indeed ask for another extension or not even go through with the sales.
“I have real concerns about whether he at this point has the funds available to close on the properties,” van Swol explained of his lone vote to reject the 60-day extension. “I suspect he’s stalling for time.”
If Kang chooses not to buy the properties, they stay in SW’s hands, but van Swol pointed out that the lands and buildings are encumbered so long as Kang is doing his due diligence.
He feared that could endanger the district legally and/or cause it to miss out on other opportunities, especially considering that Callicoon Center farmer Richard Riseling remains interested in the Narrowsburg facility (and is no longer aligned or partnered with Kang).
Hilton said the district’s attorney indicated a 60-day extension request “is very common,” and Hilton himself wasn’t surprised, considering the legal and bureaucratic issues Kang has faced from an unsuccessful petition to void the sales to the Town of Tusten’s ongoing rezoning process.
“We lost quite a bit of time at the outset,” Kang confirmed of the issues Hilton mentioned.
Kang called van Swol’s suspicions “speculation on his part” and said that he’ll likely be able to close on the Narrowsburg properties prior to the DV properties (he’s currently bidding on acreage next to the DV school).
He estimated that he could go through with the sales in Narrowsburg before July, offering as proof the fact that he’s working with the Narrowsburg Chamber of Commerce to participate in the hamlet’s July 4 and RiverFest celebrations.
As for the lone “no” vote on the sale of the Narrowsburg acreage, van Swol had a simple explanation.
“I thought the price was ridiculously low,” he said, feeling the property was worth “at least double” the $70,000 bid.
“It’s a number I’m comfortable with,” Kang replied of his bid, noting that while the appraised value was around double what he offered, the property’s subsurface mineral rights were kept by the school district, thus diminishing the land’s value.
Grady steps down
One of the reasons there were 7-1 votes on Kang’s plans Tuesday was because the ninth SW board member, Brian Grady, was not present, having resigned effective that day.
“He had notified us several weeks ago he would not be running again,” Hilton told the Democrat on Wednesday.
The father of two SW students, Grady could not be reached for comment at his Narrowsburg home but did provide a short resignation letter to the board.
“Due to some unavoidable circumstances and responsibilities, I regret to inform you of my resignation from the Sullivan West Central School District Board of Education,” he wrote to District Clerk Peg Luty. “It has been an honor to serve on the board these past months, and I wish I could be in several places at the same time. Thanks very much for all your hard work in supporting the board.”
Hilton said Grady had family and work obligations in New Jersey that demanded more and more of his time.
“He was a good board member and a sensible man,” Hilton observed, thankful for Grady’s six months of service.
Since Grady was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board, his position was already up for election in this May 17’s board and budget vote.
Hortonville’s Al Steppich and Callicoon’s Kathy Meckle are vying to fill what will become a three-year seat when the term commences on July 1.