Home Construction Sewer ruling fouls Camp LaGuardia plans

Sewer ruling fouls Camp LaGuardia plans

Joel Mounty with rendering of revisions the company plans to make at Camp LaGuardia.

When Orange County bought Camp LaGuardia in 2006, it chose Mountco Construction of Scarsdale to redevelop the New York City-owned homeless shelter straddling the towns of Chester and Blooming Grove. It also committed to bringing sewer and water to the 258-acre development site.

Mountco’s final purchase of the property, which the county paid $9.5 million for in 2006, is contingent upon receiving water and sewer service.  New York State Supreme Court Judge Francis Nicolai in May annulled Orange County’s extension of its Sewer District No. 1 in the village of Harriman to accommodate Mountco’s redevelopment of the Camp LaGuardia property. Nicolai upheld the town of Blooming Grove’s lawsuit regarding the issue, sending the county and the developer back to the drawing board.

Joel Mounty and his staff came before the Chester Town Board June 8 to discuss how best to move forward. While the county is already appealing Nicolai’s decision,  Mounty’s staff, which includes former Orange County attorney Richard Golden, brought an updated rendering of its plans for the property to the meeting.

“We propose to reduce the commercial space considerably,” John Madeo, Mountco’s executive vice president, said during the presentation, “but we are still committed to building 900 units of housing.”

The mix of housing will change, however, according to the revised rendering. There will be more 55-and-over housing clustered in with family style apartments, which will be primarily one- and two-bedroom units. Buildings will be between three and four stories high, but Madeo told Chester the buildings would not be seen from the highway or adjacent properties because of the topography of the site. Mountco plans to demolish all the existing buildings that once housed the homeless for decades.

Mountco still proposes a town center, one that will be a gathering place for concerts and other events for the community. The current wetlands on the property, situated in the town of Chester, “are not considered a loss,” Madeo said. He perceives it as being developed for passive recreation that would be a plus to the proposed community.

Parking, another issue Mountco is addressing, will be behind buildings so homeowners and renters will not be subjected to a “sea of parked cars,” Madeo said. The developer is also changing the percentage of family units and senior units, making 60 percent of them geared to the 55-and-over group. There will also be a mix of single-family homes and town homes.

Golden told Chester board members, “The county had an obligation to provide sewer and expanded the Orange County Sewer District to accommodate this project. That was challenged, and the court nullified it. Now, the county is appealing the decision.” That nullification has caused Mountco to tread carefully, since the company has already spent $1.2 million in preparatory work for Camp LaGuardia’s redevelopment.

Mountco is proposing the towns of Chester and Blooming Grove sign a development agreement with the company. Mountco proposes the agreement, which can be modified or even rejected after the final public review, would commit the parties to study the conceptual plan and would give none of those involved the ability to unilaterally “pull the plug.”

Mounty, who has been busy building in Westchester and the Hudson Valley, said development agreements with projects the scale of Camp LaGuardia are becoming more common.

“This is a major private-public partnership that needs a level of cooperation; that’s the purpose of the agreement. I’ve already committed over $1 million to this project. Before we move forward and spend another million, I think we all need to work together and make this a project the towns and the county, as well as the company, can agree on cordially.”

Ralph Maffei, the planning board chair from the town of Blooming Grove, which is the co-lead agency on the project, said a development agreement was worthy of consideration. “The plan we saw tonight looked similar to the original one,” Maffei said. “The three biggest issues we face are sewer, water and roads that will lead into the development.”

The Chester Town Board reserved comment at the meeting, but Supervisor Steve Neuhaus said he is committed to working with Blooming Grove Supervisor Frank Fornario on the project.

Mountco will bring the new rendering to the Blooming Grove Town Board on July 5 and hopes all three parties, along with the county, can forge an agreement on the future of the site.



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