Apollo deal nears; concerns raised
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO November 12, 2013 A public hearing Thursday on the county’s pending sale of the former Apollo Mall drew a mixed but mostly positive response.
“I’m here to urge you ... to say ‘yes’ to this,” remarked architect and former Village of Monticello Trustee David Rosenberg.
He called the potential purchasers, the Resnick family, “no-nonsense guys.”
“They do what they say they’re going to do,” he affirmed. “... It should be the county’s slogan: ‘let the Resnicks do it’.”
But the $600,000 sale of the 25-acre property has also drawn concern.
Even though Monticello will get a third of that sale price, current Monticello Village Trustee Carmen Rue told legislators she’s worried the village won’t recoup the back taxes owed on the land.
“I’m not against Mr. Resnick, I’m not against the Apollo [project],” she stipulated.
Grahamsville resident Ken Walter urged legislators to ensure the county’s access to and use of a former BOCES facility at the end of Plaza Drive next to the Apollo.
A letter of intent signed between the county and the Resnicks lets the county keep storing its electronic voting machines there for at least a few years, though eventually the county would have to lease it or vacate it.
Walter agreed with some legislators who’d like to see it instead become the headquarters of the Sheriff’s Office.
“That part we really have to negotiate for ourselves,” Walter said. “... They want the tax breaks, they have to meet us halfway.”
However, Legislator Alan Sorensen expressed concern that one part of the letter of intent has already gone unmet the stipulation that in order to extend the Resnicks’ option to purchase the property past a September 30 deadline, they must give the county a $50,000 down payment.
Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson said that would be discussed in the Executive Committee meeting on November 21.
The day after the meeting, Thompson Town Supervisor Tony Cellini sent out a press release echoing Sorensen’s and Rue’s concerns and adding another one: that the property’s value is likely to soar now that at least one casino is likely coming to the area.
“For the sake of the taxpayer, let us not give this property away,” Cellini wrote.
Contacted afterwards, Legislator Ira Steingart said the county has yet to transfer ownership of the property to the Sullivan County Funding Corporation (SCFC), which was created by the county to handle the sale. Steingart chairs its board.
“SCFC can’t take a deposit when they don’t own title to the property,” he pointed out.
The SCFC and the Resnicks agreed to a six-month extension of the letter of intent in October, he added, and since the letter is non-binding, any deadlines set by it are unenforceable anyway.
“A deposit would only apply when they [the Resnicks] sign the [purchase] option,” Steingart explained.
As for the Sheriff’s Office’s relocation to the Plaza Drive building, Steingart characterized it as a “dealbreaker.”
Nevertheless, he expressed optimism his colleagues will agree to the property’s transfer at the November 21 full Legislature meeting.
“I think it’s going to happen,” he predicted.