Chapin Estate presses on with another subdivision

Second-home market soft

By FRITZ MAYER

BETHEL, NY — The developers of The Chapin Estate, the gated community of million-dollar homes surrounding the Toronto Reservoir, are pressing ahead to develop another community of upscale homes in the same neighborhood.

At a meeting of the Bethel planning board on March 13, the board accepted as complete the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) from the developers. The board’s acceptance, however, does not mean it has signed off on the DEIS. The board must still study the document and perform a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR).

The DEIS concluded that there will be minimal impacts on traffic, air, water, wildlife and the like. The report indicated that timber rattlesnakes had been spotted about 2.3 miles from the border of the project, but “because the project is located far enough from the den sites, no impacts to this species are anticipated and no mitigation measures are necessary.”

The development is called The Preserve at Chapin Estate and is located on a 1500-acre parcel to the south and east of the Toronto Reservoir, stretching out toward Swinging Bridge Reservoir. The subdivision plan calls for 177 single-family homes on lots of five acres or more in a community to be accessed by the controversial gated road—now called Chapin Trail—off of the southern end of Pine Grove Road, which runs through Smallwood.

At the meeting, Tracy Shepard, a representative of AKRF, a company that provides environmental and engineering services, gave a presentation outlining what she termed the benefits of the existing homes at the original Chapin Estate.

To this point, 41 homes have been built in the community with room for 100 more. She said in 2006 the 41 homes generated over $500,000 in town, county and special district taxes and $700,000 in school taxes for the 2006/07 school year. She said, “This comes to $30,000 in annual property taxes per home as compared to an estimated $5,000 for the average-priced home in Bethel.”

She said this was very beneficial to the community because as second homeowners, the Chapin Estate taxpayers used very few services and put no students into the local schools.

Will all these lots sell?

There is no doubt that, like the rest of the country, the real estate market in Sullivan County has dropped in the past several months; this goes for second homes as well as primary residences.

Diana Gilbert, a broker at Penn-York Realty in Narrowsburg, said it’s slow all over right now, on both sides of the river, with second homes and with primary homes. She said gas prices have a lot to do with it, but also that many second-home properties are currently priced too high. She said, for instance, a farmhouse on 50 acres that would have gone for $150,000 before the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11, was now priced at $700,000. She said such prices were unrealistic.

David Knudsen of Sullivan County New York Real Estate, however, said while the drop in activity is real, it’s not as bad as it might seem. Real estate closings in Sullivan County in the three-month period ending in February dropped 36 percent over a year ago. But, he said, that mainly reflects activity from the fall of 2006. That was when there was much talk of the bursting of the real estate bubble, and people who might have been in the market for a second home simply stayed away. In the past two months, however, Knudson has noticed a marked pick-up in activity, especially in the “mid-market second home” segment, which he put in a price range of roughly $350,000. He predicted that in the next few months, sales will only be down by about 10 percent from the last year.

As for the Preserve at Chapin Estate development, Knudsen said the lakefront lots at the first development sold very quickly because there are simply no such large lakefront lots like that available between New York City and the Adirondacks. It follows, then, that the lakefront lots in the Preserve would also sell quickly.

However, most of the lots in both developments are not lakefront. He said these represent more of a “challenge” to sell because a home on one of the properties will sell in the range of $750,000 or more. He said the lots in Chapin Estate are beautiful but, at that price, buyers are looking for a “trophy setting.”