By Dan Hust
SMALLWOOD The former Smallwood Golf Course is now in the hands of the non-profit Bethel Local Development Corporation (BLDC), but it may soon leap to another owner, Terra Capital Management.
On Thursday, county legislators unanimously approved (minus an absent Frank Armstrong and Jodi Goodman) to sell the 191-acre property to the BLDC for approximately $54,000 the amount of outstanding taxes, penalties and interest owed.
The county had foreclosed on the land last year after a developer failed to realize his controversial vision for the site as a housing development.
But both the county and the Town of Bethel remained interested in developing the property, albeit at a far smaller level.
Proposals from developers were requested, and a committee was formed to choose between two of them, ultimately recommending Terra.
Bethel Supervisor Dan Sturm said last week that Terra’s plan which would site less than two dozen homes on about a quarter of the land, leaving the rest open remains Bethel’s favorite.
“Our goal is not to retain title,” he explained. “Our goal is to sell it to a developer.”
If that sale occurs within the next three years, Sullivan County will be entitled to 50 percent of any net proceeds exceeding $100,000, or 40 percent of the net profit in excess of $100,000 if the BLDC itself develops or leases the site for any use other than a town park.
Sturm expects that Terra will be interested in purchasing the land from the BLDC and for at least $20,000 more than the BLDC paid (although the prior, foreclosed-on owner shelled out $1.2 million for it, he said).
If the sale does exceed $100,000, “we’ll gladly split it with the county,” Sturm affirmed.
Since the town is loaning the BLDC the $54,000 from Bethel’s general fund, Sturm said the BLDC’s “profit” on the sale would go towards reimbursing that fund.
Terra has first dibs on the land, he added, but if it doesn’t want to proceed, the town will put out a request for proposals.
Preserve Smallwood Country Life (PSCL) Director Jonathan Hyman, who led a group of 250 grassroots community members in redefining the site’s future, said PSCL will continue to collaborate with the town.
“This is a good outcome for Smallwood and the entire Town of Bethel,” he observed. “At a time when there is so much cynicism in politics and constant complaining about dysfunctional government, PSCL’s success in advocating for appropriate, sustainable zoning, environmental stewardship and Smallwood’s community character is a great story.
“Dedicated, informed and engaged citizens worked closely with multiple levels of government rationally and relied on facts, science and the law. This allowed for a compromise and all opinions to be heard and considered.
“Our group thanks Supervisor Daniel Sturm and the Bethel Town Board, the Sullivan County Legislature, SC Dept. of Planning, and Delaware Riverkeeper.
“PSCL is particularly appreciative of the dedicated efforts and wisdom of Bethel Councilwoman Denise Frangipane, Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, Legislator David Sager, and County Treasurer Ira Cohen, without whom we could not have accomplished our goals.”
Former Smallwood developer dies mysteriously
By Dan Hust
YONKERS The man who unsuccessfully tried to develop the former Smallwood Golf Course is dead, with police investigating it as a possible murder.
Robert Van Zandt Jr. was the public face of Upstate Land and Properties, which had bought the 191-acre Smallwood property with the intention of siting upwards of 200 homes on it.
According to several media reports, on September 6 the 44-year-old was found dead by his live-in caretaker, floating in a swimming pool at his Yonkers home.
Yonkers Police said Van Zandt had a single gunshot wound to the head, but authorities still remain unsure if Van Zandt took his own life or was killed.
Van Zandt’s widow, Kim, told the NY Daily News she doesn’t believe it was a suicide.
Lohud.com reported that Van Zandt was sentenced in 1997 to 55 months on federal mail fraud charges and was ordered to pay more than a million dollars in restitution.
The news source also reported that Van Zandt’s name came up during testimony at two trials involving Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano, an imprisoned mob figure.
Yonkers Police told Lohud.com that the NYS Attorney General’s Office was investigating Van Zandt, which Bethel Supervisor Dan Sturm confirmed to the Democrat.
Sturm said the AG’s Office called him about six months ago over his dealings with the town and allegations Van Zandt was bilking investors.
Sturm added that Van Zandt had been the subject of some talk in Bethel even before then.
“There were always a lot of rumors,” he remarked, “but nothing concrete was brought to my attention.”
The meetings he had with Van Zandt “were always conducted professionally.”
Last year, Van Zandt lost a court battle with the town over its zoning rewrite, which reduced the homes he could build on the land to less than 30. He argued it was spot zoning and illegal, but the judge did not agree.
Van Zandt’s attorney in that matter, Larry Wolinsky of Jacobowitz and Gubits, told the Democrat through his secretary that he had no information to provide regarding Van Zandt’s death.
Yonkers Police, when contacted last week, would only say the investigation continues.
Preserve Smallwood Country Life (PSCL) Director Jonathan Hyman, whose group advocated for an environmentally-conscious and sustainable development of the site, remarked, “Our group, from its inception, never focused on who owned the golf course property.
“The hamlet of Smallwood and the golf course property now have zoning that allows for development that is both appropriate for our community character and respectful of the environmental sensitivity of the golf course and the aquifer upon which it sits.
“PSCL is now working with the Town of Bethel to usher in a plan that will allow for a limited number of single-family homes and a conservation easement.”