MONTICELLO, NY — There were dozens of professionally printed signs on display at the Sullivan County Government Center on November 21, urging the legislature to turn over the Apollo Plaza property to the Sullivan County Funding Corporation (SCFC) as another step in the process of selling the land to developer Butch Resnick and the Resnick Group.
The overwhelming sentiment of those who spoke during public comment was that the legislature should move forward with selling the property to Resnick, who has made many investments in Sullivan County, and has a solid reputation as a businessman and developer.
Businessman Les Kristt was typical of many who urged the legislature to act “now” to turn the property into a place that would begin to pay property tax and that would generate sales tax for the county.
No one questioned the ability of the Resnick group to do what they have said they would do, which is create a grocery store and attract other retail outlets to the location, and as part of phase two also perhaps build a truck stop. But a few people questioned whether the legislature should be turning over responsibility for the rest of the deal to the SCFC.
Alternative energy consultant Dick Riseling asked, “Will you consider having some control over the final development of this project? Currently your resolution calls for none that I can see.”
Legislator Alan Sorensen echoed that thought, saying, “As a legislator, I’m being asked to sign off on a resolution that in effect delegates the authority that I have as a legislator solely to the SCFC… There is nothing in this resolution, as I see it, that commits the SCFC to set a minimum sales price, to require a certain level of development, to prevent or preclude the property from being flipped or transferred.”
Ira Steingart, who has chair of the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) has worked more closely on the deal than the other legislators, said he was “offended” a “lack of trust in the IDA or in this case the SCFC… that they don’t trust the deal they are going to make.”
On a related matter, Sheriff Mike Schiff asked that the deal be tabled for a month, and he also asked that the building known as the ARC Building on about three acres, be carved out of the deal. That building is now being used to house the new voting machines, and was mentioned in the past as a location of the Sheriff’s Road Patrol, which is currently located in a structure dating back to the 1850s called the Bushnell Building, and according to Schiff is unsafe. In 2009, renovations were begun in the ARC Building, with the intention that the road patrol would be housed there. But Resnick has reportedly said that he can’t go forward with the deal if that building is not part of the package.
To that issue, legislator Jonathan Rouis said, “Do we really want to take prime developable commercial real estate and house county functions? My answer to that is I don’t think so.” He said the road patrol faces “deplorable” conditions, but he said there is an opportunity to “take a hard look at somewhere right on Broadway, and put that road patrol right in the center of the county seat, where they can make a difference.”
Ultimately, the board voted seven to two to turn the property over to the SCFC. There are two phases to the deal, with phase one being the front of the property, which will include Apollo Plaza and will be sold to the Resnick Group for $600,000.
Phase two will include the ARC Building and acreage that was purchased by the county to be used for the expansion of the landfill, which never occurred. County taxpayers are still paying off the bond for the land. Resnick will have an option to buy the property for $2 million.
Some in the community have questioned whether the price should be renegotiated now that the casino resolution has been approved and it seems quite likely that a casino will be built just a couple of miles from the site, but the legislature decided to stick with the original terms of the deal.