Mountco is ready to make a deal

With new concessions, Blooming Grove gives would-be Camp LaGuardia developer a more positive reception

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  • The former Camp LaGuardia site, pictured, has been languishing ever since the county bought it from New York City in 2007. (Photo by Edie Johnson)




  • The former Camp LaGuardia site, pictured, has been languishing ever since the county bought it from New York City in 2007. (Photo by Edie Johnson)



There is new pressure on the towns to let the project move forward — both to help close the county's budget gap with the $9.5 million that Mountco is offering, and to untangle the supposedly unbreakable contract with Mountco that since 2009 has left the property to deteriorate.

By Edie Johnson
— Offering concessions, the would-be developer of the former Camp LaGuardia site says they're ready to make a deal.

Representatives of Mountco Corp., the Scarsdale-based company that wants to put hundreds of houses and a commercial strip on the 258-acre site in Chester and Blooming Grove, said they recently sat down with Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, who asked them: What solution can be reached to satisfy the residents of the host communities of Chester and Blooming Grove?

Other highlights of the new plan

Other highlights of Mountco's new plan:
Mountco wants to keep its option to replace houses with businesses, if that proves more viable for them.
No more than 25 percent of the residences will have three bedrooms, with the rest to have fewer bedrooms.
Fifty percent of residences will be for senior citizens and veterans. Local residents will get first choice.
The remainder of the residences will be "workforce housing." Employees who work in the new offices located in the commercial space might choose to live there, Mounto says.
The rural, narrow back entrance, White Tail Run, will be used only as a secondary access road if the county agrees to gate it for emergency access.

There is new pressure on the towns to let the project move forward — both to help close the county's budget gap with the $9.5 million that Mountco is offering, and to untangle the supposedly unbreakable contract with Mountco that has left the property to deteriorate. The buildings that have served the complex for almost 100 years are now beyond repair, afflicted by years of vandalism, fire, and neglect.

The lack of sewer capacity, which has stymied the project in the past, remains an unresolved problem. But there is a path forward — if Mountco completes its environmental review, and if Blooming Grove drops its resistance to the sewer expansion. Under former supervisor Frank Fornario, Blooming Grove successfully sued to stop the county's plan to expand its sewer district to the site, arguing that the town was not included in the county's decision.

No more 'developer's agreement'

This week was Mountco's first session with Blooming Grove's new Supervisor, Bob Fromaget, the town board, and several members of the planning board. First, Mountco's executive vice president, John Madeo, offered to take off the table the "developer's agreement" they've long been requesting. Instead, he said, Mountco will accept a non-binding "conceptual agreement" that the towns agree with the project's general scope, which has been whittled down over time from 907 residences and 180,000 square feet of commercial space 630 residences — 315 in Blooming Grove and 315 in Chester — and 80,000 square feet of commercial space.

Mountco has offered the county from $9.5 million up to $12 million, depending on the number of units approved. Only 58 acres are buildable. The remaining acres include wetlands and black dirt portions that may, in part, be suitable for recreation or leased for farming.

The board's reaction was mixed but far more positive than it has been in the past. Fromaget had been strongly opposed to the developer's agreement.

Ralph Maffei, chair of the Blooming Grove Planning Board, asked Madeo for an alternate plan that would conform to the town's current zoning, which has recently changed. The new code allows multiple-family dwellings but prohibits the numbers proposed by Mountco without a variance.

Mountco has done a traffic study, but Maffei said the planning board will do its own. He said the site has plenty of water, with the potential for an onsite water and sewer plant.

Mountco last week made a similar presentation to the Town of Chester, another venue where the developer met with a more positive reception than in the past. Supervisor Alex Jamieson had been pressing for more senior citizen and veterans housing as well as more extensive development of pocket parks and ball fields, which are included in Mountco's new plan.

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