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County to sell Smallwood golf course to Bethel

By Fritz Mayer
November 9, 2011

The Sullivan County Legislature voted on November 3 to sell the Smallwood Golf Course property and adjacent parcels to the Bethel Local Development Corporation (BLDC). The price tag on the deal is $54,000, which will cover back taxes and fines owed on the property.

According to Town of Bethel Supervisor Dan Sturm, the BLDC will then seek a buyer to develop the 200–acre property with an estimated nine to 15 single-family homes on lots that are three to 12 acres in size. The plan, which was developed by a committee created to determine the best use for the land, envisions that much of the property will be returned to the town as open space.

The property has been described as ecologically sensitive because several streams converge on the property, and also the well for some 700 seasonal homes in the Smallwood development is located on the property. Sturm said that if the property is sold to a developer for more than $100,000, any amount in excess of that figure will be split with the county.

Sturm said an access point to the property, which was the subject of controversy three years ago, will be subdivided from the parcel and sold to the adjacent neighbors on Pine Grove Road, and there will be no access to the project from that road.

The history of the parcel was also filled with other points of controversy. A developer named Robert Van Zandt from Yonkers owned the parcel in 2007 and sought permission from the town to build 200 townhouses, but was denied.

Later, with much prodding from the group Preserve Smallwood Country Life and others such as the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and as part of a town-wide zoning update, the town changed the zoning of the parcel from one that would have allowed homes on one-acre lots, to one that would require a minimum of three acres. Van Zandt sued the town over the zoning change but lost the case both in Supreme Court and Appellate Court. He then stopped paying taxes and the county foreclosed.

In an unrelated development, according to the New York Daily News, Van Zandt was discovered dead in his pool at his home in Scarsdale with a bullet wound in his head in September. His wife told the paper she did not believe it was suicide. The article said Van Zandt had close ties to a reputed mobster Vincent Basciano, who was convicted of murder in 2007 and of ordering a second murder from prison in 2011.