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September 27, 2016
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Cappelli proposes townhouses, possible casino for Liberty

Kevin McManus represents developer Louis Cappelli and presents plans for a development at the Grossinger’s site.
TRR photo by Carol Montana

Kevin McManus of McManus and Associates Land Development Services presented a conceptual master plan for a new Grossinger Country Resort at the Town of Liberty board meeting on August 19.

Representing Louis Cappelli’s Sullivan Resorts, which owns 480 acres in the Town of Liberty, as well as 102 acres in the Village, McManus laid out plans to demolish all the former Grossinger buildings and replace them with a convention center complete with a 300-room luxury hotel, townhouses, a spa and even, possibly, an assisted living facility.

The project would preserve Grossinger Lake and the current Big G championship golf course and add a state-of-the-art clubhouse. A restaurant, nightclub, recreational areas, supportive retail shops, and possibly a casino would also be part of the project.

The old Grossinger resort is currently zoned R1, which permits single-family and two-family homes, but does not permit the proposed hotel and several project components.

“We realize the R1 doesn’t permit this,” said McManus. “We observed that the zoning code includes the ability of the town to assign an overlay district that would be known as a PUD for this property… which does permit a lot of these alternative uses I’ve talked about.… It does not include the possibility of a hotel or a casino.”

McManus said the casino is not going to drive the project, but Sullivan Resorts would like to see if the town would consider the possibility of allowing the overlay to include those two additional uses. “We think we’ve presented a plan that provides a significant amount of diversity and preserves a significant amount of open space.”

While the feedback from the board was mostly positive, questions were raised both by board members and the public about Louis Cappelli’s track record at the Concord Hotel site.

McManus acknowledged that “we’re having a very steep hill to climb” and said the project would start with a schedule to demolish the existing buildings to “show our intention to proceed and make an actual phase-in of the demo part of the approval process.”

Town Supervisor Charlie Barbuti expressed his optimism. “I would certainly like to see it happen. We’re already in the process of changing the PUD to specifically permit gaming because right now it specifically excludes it.”

“You’re off to good start,” said Lynn Dowe, chairman of the town’s planning board. “The planning board does like to see the master plan first, instead of adding piece by piece… Most of the planning board is here tonight and we’re all excited to see this project come… We will definitely work with you in any way we can to make this happen for the Town of Liberty.”

Veteran housing?

Another presentation was made by Joy Cole-Johnson, founder and CEO of the North Eastern Expansion Development Corporation (NEED.)

The project would provide supportive housing for homeless veterans at the site of the Paramount Hotel in Parksville and would include schooling; daycare; a medical facility; recreation including basketball, track, tennis and gymnasium; a supermarket, clothing and shoe stores, small restaurants; and employment areas.

Board member Chris Austin questioned the project’s stated aim to provide housing not only to veterans, but also to the special needs population. “If this project was for the veterans and only the veterans, I would be supportive of it. But I’m getting the inclination by reading your proposal that this has the inclination to be a stop-and-shop for homeless people from New York City, Westchester, Rockland, and other areas, and I’m not in favor of that.”

Johnson clarified that “Most of the veterans will be coming from this county,” and that it would create jobs for town residents such as social workers, day care providers, nurses, etc.

She asked the town to give the organization a letter of support within 60 days in order to apply for a government-funded grant, which will also pay for a conceptual master plan.

Barbuti asked for a cost/benefit analysis. “We have a history in this county of providing for people with special needs, but I also need to keep in mind the needs of the community.”

Uncomfortable with giving a letter of support without more information, the board asked Cole-Johnson for additional specifics including the conceptual master plan before it could lend its support.