Next Tuesday evening, November 2, residents of Stony Point will learn if the sale of its municipal golf course has been approved or rejected.
Stony Point resident/developer Raja Amar, who raised his family in Rockland and whose children attended North Rockland schools, has been on a rollercoaster with fellow residents who are divided on the upcoming referendum.
A successful business owner who moved from Hillcrest in 1991 and has called Stony Point home for three decades, Amar spoke Rockland Business Association’s Commercial and Residential Economic Development Council on October 26 th via Zoom. He told listeners he originally approached the Town several years ago about possibly purchasingthe Grille Club, Patriot Hills’ catering facility, which had been leased to Incredible Caterers. Amar saw the possibilities The Grille Room offered as a destinationwedding/event venue. Talks with town officials turned to the possibility of Amar buying and remediating the Letchworth Village property to bring rateables to the town-in turn, upgrading the property leading to the Grille Room from eyesore to eye candy.
That suggestion birthed a proposal to include the golf course. Since Patriot Hills is in need of major upgrades to the course, along with its sprinkler system and outbuildings, particularly its clubhouse, which has no bathroom/showers, it sounded like a venture worth pursuing to Amar.
Amar, CEO of T-Mobile Portable Unlimited, proposes to repurpose the old Letchworth property for a hotel/conference center and other commercially-friendly development that would bring complimentary businesses to Club House Lane—some retail, a restaurant (perhaps a Starbucks?) —that would draw shoppers and visitors and help offset Stony Point’s high property taxes.
A major concern resident on both sides of the fence have voiced – the need for affordable senior housing—will be included in Amar’s mixed-use development plans for the property if the sale is approved, he told CRED. Residents are concerned about will happen if Amar decides to bail out and “flip” the property to a high-density housing developer, a move that could turn the golf course into a mini-city instead of a semi-suburban destination.
534 residents petitioned the court forthe right to weigh in on project, resulting in the proposition Stony Pointers will vote on this Election Day.
The Letchworth property is not included in the referendum. Those 26 acres are only included in the agreement the Town negotiated for the sale of the golf course. Both the Town and Patriot Hills LLC signed a Memorandum of Understanding to take down the buildings, remediate the grounds and put in the necessary vertical infrastructure needed to upgrade the parcel to a standard that would attract a significant hotelier, such as Crown Plaza. Kirkbride Hall would receive some needed remediation and be leased back to Stony Point for $1 a year for recreational and town event use. The RHO building and its senior center would be replaced with a new senior/community center.
Letchworth Village’s “overlay district” was specifically created to allow for its takedown, land remediation and eventual development into rateables-producing property. (Rockland County Times, April 11, 2019) Amir also stated the dismantling of stone/mortar buildings and asbestos remediation would be undertaken so as to not interfere with Camp Venture or any other activity on site.
Proponents say North Rockland has seen no major devlopment in decades and have already missed an opportunity in the northeast corner of the county when Legoland New York passed up the area and opened its $500 million entertainment venue in Orange County. At one time, Letchworth Village–built to house what was then termed as the“mentally feeble– was a major employer in Rockland.
Opponents of the sale— including members of Stony Point United—say they don’t believe the town should sell any of its property because they fear it will be flipped.
Others think the Town should keep the golf course and hire an outside management company to care for it, though it appears the cost to bring the golf course up to par will come a hefty price tag, as will the cost to remediate/renovate its clubhouse or the GrilleRoom, something town officials say is a financial burden the municipality cannot affordto rehabilitate and keep up without breaking the bank.
Two participants on CRED’s Tuesday Zoom meeting had opposite opinions. Stony Point resident Diane Cuellar told listeners she was a “contrarian” who thought the property wasnot priced high enough and that Stony Point United offered several good proposals. The ARC Rockland’s William Marlowe told listeners that Amar purchased the non-profit’s 83,000 sq.ft. building but let ARC remain in place until their new quarters were ready.
“As a non-profit, he knew our financial constraints and told us to stay put until our newspace was completed…it’s been nearly a year now, and we haven’t been asked to pay a cent.” Marlowe said Amar has proven to be a man of his word.
As for Amar, he is hopeful residents will approve the sale and support his vision for the golf course, its clubhouse and catering facility –along with remediating Letchworth Village properties-and will give Stony Point the right of first refusal should Patriot Hills LLC decide to sell the property. Opponents say the golf course should remain town- owned and have several ideas on how best to make the property profitable, but how those upgrades and improvements can be made without raising already high property taxes isdisconcerting to those who are on the fence.
The voters are the ultimate decision makers, and Stony Pointers will know soon after thepolls close on Tuesday evening whether the answer is Yea or Nay on Proposition #7.