Eli Ruiz | Democrat
Kevin McManus makes a presentation on the Grossinger’s development plans at last Monday’s Town of Liberty Board meeting. He was representing developer Louis Cappelli.
Cappelli group makes pitch
Story by Eli Ruiz
LIBERTY August 27, 2013 Last Monday’s Town of Liberty Board meeting was a busy one, as two ambitious, large-scale projects were presented to the board and the 40-plus attendees, including the town Planning Board.
(See this Friday’s Democrat for details on plans for the shuttered Paramount Hotel).
First before the board were Kevin McManus of McManus & Associates and Henry Zabatta, representing Westchester developer Louis Cappelli’s Sullivan Resorts, LLC. They presented Cappelli’s vision for the Grossinger Country Resort, a vision strikingly similar to Cappelli’s decade-old promise to redevelop another former Sullivan County jewel: The Concord Resort Hotel.
Cappelli, who owns 582-acres of the former Grossinger’s resort 100 acres of which sit in the Village of Liberty, including the main structure and the Big G golf course is proposing a development project that would entail the demolition of all standing structures.
Sullivan Resorts then proposes the construction of a 300-room hotel and a possible casino. Cappelli may be partnering with Mohegan Sun his partner in his Concord project for this latest gambit.
The project would include a spa, entertainment venue, convention center, night club, retail space, possible assisted living accommodations and 500 residential units comprised of both single and multi-family homes.
Though McManus says the project would see the 18-hole golf course and Grossinger Lake remain intact, the group plans to tear down and rebuild the current clubhouse.
With the Grossinger’s property currently zoned R1 (residential), some obstacles do stand on the potential project’s way. R1 zones allow for only light density construction, with permissions for single- and two-family homes only.
McManus then related that the group has gone over the town zoning code and found that it includes the possibility for the town to assign an “overlay district,” also known as a Planned Unit Development (PUD) district. While the PUD would allow for the majority of the project’s proposals, it does come with two very big caveats for the proposal: A prohibition on gaming and hotels, though the town could potentially lift the restrictions once a PUD has been established.
“Obviously Liberty is one of the towns that’s been earmarked for this [a possible casino] by the state, and while it’s [a casino] not going to drive our project, it’s not the basis of our project nor the focus of our project,” said McManus. “We’d like to see whether or not the town would consider the possibility of allowing this overlay to be applied to this property that would include those two additional uses.”
“I’m excited for anything of this nature that might come to our town and I would certainly like to see it happen,” said Town Supervisor Charlie Barbuti. “We’re in the process of changing the PUD to specifically permit gaming, because right now it’s specifically excluded.”
When it came time for the public to chime in on the proposal, Liberty resident Kyle Mangan made a remark that seemed to resonate with the rest of the audience: “Although it should be irrelevant, your chief partner [Cappelli] still has a pile of rubble sitting in the Town of Thompson [at the old Concord site].”
Addressing Mangan, Barbuti offered this reassurance: “The town has a policy of not entertaining projects for the town that have outstanding violations, so they’re going to be working along with us to clean up these things before we give any kind of approval.”
Russell Reeves was worried about possible tax deferments, but was reassured by McManus that the group would seek none. Reeves then asked where the funding for the massive project would come from.
“Funding is personal funding,” replied McManus. “I mean that’s what it’s gonna have to be… Mr. Cappelli is committed to proceeding with this.”
Cappelli will also have to deal with some competition right next door in the form of the Muss Development group, which owns nearly 1,000 acres adjacent to Grossinger’s and has partnered with Foxwoods in an attempt to bring a casino to the area.
Asked if the Sullivan Resorts group has had any contact with, or attempted to partner with Muss Development, Zabatta answered, “We’ve met with Mr. Muss on several occasions over the last six to seven years and we haven’t been able to arrive at any amicable situation where they would want to partner with us or let us buy them out. Mr. Cappelli did contact the Muss organization before we filed this [current] plan to let him know what we were doing.”
Planning Board Chairman Lynn Dowe is as excited as Barbuti.
“You’re off to a good start,” he told Cappelli’s reps. “The planning board likes to see the master plan first instead of adding it piece by piece to get an overall view. Most of the planning board is here tonight and were real excited to see this project come. Also, and just to let you know, we’ll definitely work with you in any way we can to make this happen for the Town of Liberty.”