Dan Hust | Democrat
Designed by architect Joe Hurwitz, this Adirondack-themed model of the to-be-redone exterior of the old Apollo Mall was brought back to the Government Center Thursday for legislators to view once again, prior to their vote to sell the county-owned plaza to the Resnick Group.
Apollo sale to proceed
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO November 26, 2013 After hearing a plethora of public comment for and against the sale on Thursday, legislators ultimately voted 7-2 to transfer the old Apollo Mall’s acreage to the Sullivan County Funding Corporation (SCFC).
The SCFC will now finalize the sale of the property to the Resnick Group, which has plans to utilize both ends of the mall for a supermarket and department store.
Legislators Kitty Vetter and Alan Sorensen (in whose district the property sits) were against the measure.
Vetter had procedural concerns, feeling the deal was not as officially confirmed as it should be and that there’s no prohibition against the Resnick Group flipping the property.
Sorensen, who leases office space from the Group, shared those concerns, plus others about setting a minimum price, determining the county’s liability, and spelling out the parameters of the development.
“I feel… I’m being asked to sign a blank check,” he told his colleagues.
Like Sorensen and Vetter, Legislator Cindy Gieger said she liked the Resnicks and the preliminaries of their plan, but she understood the concerns.
“The public is invested in this property,” she pointed out. “... In the agreement, there is nothing that safeguards the county.”
She proposed an amendment that would require the Legislature to give final approval to the SCFC-Resnick deal, but that proposal failed to win support from anyone beyond Gieger, Sorensen and Vetter.
Ultimately, Gieger joined the majority in voting for the transfer of title to the SCFC.
Other issues were raised, including a desire to have the property reappraised in the face of casino gaming’s legalization.
“The appraisal is three years old, before gambling was a reality in this county,” said Callicoon Center resident Jill Wiener.
Sheriff Mike Schiff hoped to use a portion of a building near the mall (and included in the sale) to relocate his road patrol out of the aging fire trap that is their headquarters on Bushnell Avenue in Monticello.
“They are in an unsafe building at this point,” he told legislators, asking them to delay voting for a month until an agreement could be reached with Resnick on the structure at the end of Plaza Drive.
But he didn’t convince legislators like Jonathan Rouis, who didn’t want to complicate the deal further.
“Do we really want to take prime, developable real estate to house county functions?” Rouis added, suggesting instead that the Sheriff’s Office seek new quarters in the center of the county seat.
Back taxes are also an issue, though $200,000 of the $600,000 sale of the “front” 25 acres will be given to the Village of Monticello, which is owed the most.
“I respectfully ask the village to act like grownups, not like spoiled children,” chided Legislator Cora Edwards, criticizing the village’s pursuit of the monies owed from prior owners.
In the end, officials were urged to trust the Resnicks, who have turned around several businesses in the Rock Hill area.
The group is planning a supermarket a business the company has long experience in and a TJ Maxx-style department store at the Apollo.
“Sullivan County needs them,” opined Darryl Kaplan, who helped the family with their first project when he chaired the county’s Industrial Development Agency years ago. “Give them an opportunity to do what they’re going to do!”
“They put their money where their mouth is,” affirmed Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development President Marc Baez.
“Let’s face it,” added outgoing Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce President Terri Ward, who is starting a new job with the Resnick Group. “Sullivan County has a long history of being on the losing end of many deals and many developments.… Now it’s our opportunity to finally turn a new page.”
“The Resnick Group deserves the right to be the ones to develop that parcel… into a first-class shopping destination,” urged Monticello businessman Les Kristt.
“The bottom line is, the Resnicks have performed,” said Legislator Ira Steingart.
“We know that they can do it,” affirmed Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson. “... I think we’ve waited long enough.”
“We appreciate the trust in us,” said Steve Vegliante of the Resnick Group after the vote. “It’s now on us to deliver a project you can be proud of.”