By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO In a slew of unanimous votes Tuesday (minus absent Trustee James Matthews), Monticello’s village board approved several resolutions with significant and potentially positive impacts.
Apollo moving ahead
Having received a map showing the boundaries of the annexation, the board once again agreed to annex a strip of land along Rose Valley Road into the village.
The land is part of the former Apollo Mall’s redevelopment plans, and making it part of the village allows the potential developer, Rock Hill businessman Butch Resnick, to deal solely with village authorities for necessary permits, rather than also having to go through the Town of Thompson.
County Legislator Ira Steingart, who was present at the meeting, thanked the board for moving the project along.
The next day, Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson confirmed Resnick is the planned developer, with a vote to transfer the property and negotiations to the Sullivan County Funding Corporation (similar to the Industrial Development Agency) in September.
“Our biggest hurdle was last night [Tuesday’s vote] and getting that done,” Samuelson said.
Resnick’s attorney, Steve Vegliante, told the Democrat on Wednesday that talks with the county are nearing a successful conclusion.
“I expect we’ll have a meeting next week,” Vegliante said. “We’ve agreed on all the main terms. It’s a matter of preparing the documents.”
Not directly related to the redevelopment but expected to complement it is a 100-room hotel project just across East Broadway, contemplated by a team that backed out of the Apollo project.
Henry Zabatta, Michael Kaplan and the Simon Konover Company met this week with the Intercontinental and Hilton chains to discuss bringing a Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn to the former Budoff Outdoor Furniture site, currently in use as a bus parking area.
MovE into Broadway
Four different public hearings were rolled into one, concerning amendments to the village code and zoning.
Chief among them was the creation of heretofore-prohibited “entrepreneur lofts” above Broadway businesses one-bedroom apartments with up to two occupants.
Monticello podiatrist Dr. Marc Hudes worried that the village isn’t prepared for such a change, especially if apartment residents rather than customers park in front of the stores.
“I think that it’s going to be very difficult to police the rules and regulations you’re going to set up,” he cautioned.
But others felt this could help the struggling downtown.
“One of the national trends in main street revitalization,” remarked Sullivan Renaissance Community Planner Helen Budrock, “is promoting mixed-use development.”
“If you have people living upstairs,” mused Barton and Loguidice consultant Glenn Gidaly, “you have built-in customers.”
Local Realtor Bernie Haber thought the board should expand the law to two-bedroom apartments in order to attract more developers who want a good return on their investment.
Otherwise, he worried, “I think you limit the potential of people wanting to come in, buy and renovate these buildings.”
Code Enforcement Officer James Snowden, however, indicated restricting the lofts to one bedroom would limit parking and kids-in-the-street concerns.
Trustee Carmen Rue was one of the four who ultimately adopted the loft concept.
“Liberty and Middletown have upstairs [apartments],” she pointed out. “Those owners have invested, and at least they have some income.”
The board also agreed to make it easier for building owners to re-establish businesses within their Broadway structures that have been vacant for more than a year (but not earlier than 2007).
“If you have the same footprint and the same use, you can go to the building inspector for a permit and not have to go to the planning board,” explained Village Attorney Dennis Lynch.
Allan Scott, president of the Partnership for Economic Development, was present and told trustees his board also supports the measure.
Additionally, the board approved laying non-routine village government costs on project applicants. In other words, if a particular application will require village action above and beyond normal, routine procedures, the applicant will have to pay for those additional costs.
“I’d like to applaud the board for taking some nice, positive steps,” Mayor Gordon Jenkins concluded after all the votes were finished.
New to village
Two new but familiar faces were sworn in Tuesday night.
Former Town of Thompson Planning Board member Vernon Gibson was appointed by Jenkins as the newest member of the village’s planning board.
Gibson, who helped guide through the Home Depot and Staples development, is a developer himself and has a background in real estate.
Former Liberty Police Chief Rob Mir also was sworn in, becoming Monticello’s permanent replacement to retired Chief Doug Solomon and replacing Acting Chief Mark Johnstone (who will stay with the department).
The board unanimously approved paying him $85,000 a year, $6,000 less than what Solomon and Johnstone earned.
“I have an open-door policy, so I welcome your input,” Mir told the applauding crowd.
Monticello Postmaster Deb Mack, sister of the mayor, welcomed Mir and urged everyone to cooperate, despite the tensions between factions in the village.
“We all need to join forces and work together here,” she said. “Let’s make an effort.”
Negotiating over casinos
Village Manager John LiGreci informed the board that Entertainment Properties Trust (EPT) is seeking water services from Monticello for its proposed casino/hotel/harness track near the former Concord Resort site in Kiamesha Lake.
As that property is outside village boundaries, an extension would have to be constructed and a rate set.
LiGreci said the village and EPT are negotiating a deal whereby EPT would finance the construction of the extension, which would become village property. EPT is also seeking to pay the lower in-village user rate rather than the outside user rate for 375,000 gallons per day.
Connected to the agreement would be payments to the village to offset the loss of taxes and video lottery terminal revenue from the Monticello Raceway and Casino, which would be moved out of the village to EPT’s new site.
The raceway which has occupied a spot along Route 17B for more than 50 years could get a replacement, though.
“There is talk about the possibility of an indoor park,” LiGreci told the board.
Trustees, however, wondered how the village might recoup lost revenue after the terms of the proposed agreement expire.
“We’re continuing to negotiate what I call impact fees,” Lynch confirmed. “... It’s a tradeoff, but you’ve got to be satisfied.”
“This is a starting point,” LiGreci added, noting the village’s favorable bargaining position. “... They, EPT, need the water from us. I’m not sure they could get it any other way.”