The recent contract signed by Stony Point and Patriot Hills, LLC to sell the town’s municipal golf course has become a flash point, one that will soon be settled by a town wide referendum. This is also an election year, and voters will be going to the polls to re-elect incumbent Jim Monaghan, a Republican or vote for his challenger, Michael Didierich, a Democrat. Didierich has not formally announced his candidacy yet but told the Rockland Times he is, indeed, tossing his hat in the ring for the Supervisor’s position this year.
Patriot Hills Golf Course has had financial difficulties for the past several years, says Supervisor Jim Monaghan, and is reportedly losing revenue due to the low number of rounds being played, the lack of updated locker room facilities for golfers and ongoing loss of income once generated by The Grille Room, which shut down after Incredible Caterers bowed out nearly three years ago.
After the Board announced it was going to seek a buyer for the golf course, along with 20-plus acres of former Letchworth Village property abutting it, Stony Pointers against the sale to a private developer put forth a petition for a public referendum on the sale. When it was rejected on a technicality, Didierich, a civil rights attorney, put forth another petition to the same magistrate who rejected the initial one. The second petition, signed by 524 residents, was recently upheld by Supreme Court Justice Steven Berliner, and a date for the town wide vote is to be set soon.
Monaghan says he understands residents’ concerns but remains steadfast that the golf course will remain a golf course, and that the fear of housing taking its place is unfounded. He also said the removal and remediation of the decaying Letchworth property will bring much needed rateables to the municipality, which can’t afford to tackle the cost of removing the above- and underground infrastructure of the former State-run home for the mentally disabled. Letchworth Village’s saga ended in 1996, it remains quietly decaying in a quagmire of asbestos perched above a catacomb of underground infrastructure no developer to date has been eager to tackle.
“In 1993, the Town strengthened its zoning code to prohibit building on slopes–our golf course is really not walkable—yes, there are some flat areas, but even with those, you’d still need five acres to build a single home,” said Monaghan. “To claim we are selling the golf course for any other purpose other than to keep it a golf course and take it off the taxpayers’ backs is just a scare tactic.” Didierich disagrees.
Didierich told the Rockland County Times he is not concerned about the prospect of luxury housing—it’s high-density housing he fears. “If the Patriot Hills LLC, the developer, does not get the $7.5 million, it’s requesting from the Rockland County IDA, what then?” queried Didierich. “Property here in the suburbs is booming, and I don’t believe selling the property at a ‘fire-sale’ price is in the best interests of Stony Point.” Didierich said he’s seen other municipal golf courses, including those in the towns of Orangetown and Haverstraw, managed by outside professional services that have put them in the plus column and thinks Stony Point would do well to follow suit. He also expressed concerns about the zoning, which he said could also be subject to change once the property changes hands.
Neither the Town Board nor Patriot Hills, LLC plans to challenge Judge Berliner’s ruling and expects the referendum to move forward smoothly. Didierich says holding the referendum on Tuesday, November 2 would be the most financially beneficial time to hold the referendum. That is the same date as the General Election, in which Didierich will be running against Monaghan. That’s not a problem for the incumbent supervisor: “I’m fine with whenever date the referendum is set for, as well as the outcome. If the townspeople don’t want to sell the golf course, that will be the end of that.”