Discussing Political Extremism, Religious Insularity & Ultra-orthodoxy,
Land Use, and the Future of Rockland County and the Nation
STONY POINT CHAPTER
Where Stony Point goes, so goes Rockland!
Stony Point's historic Lighthouse was a beacon for protection of newcomers. The Town needs a different form of lighthouse today--one in governance that will protect the Town's future, and with it, the County's future.
Discussed below are issues of importance to Stony Pointers and the Town's future, for example, sound land use and protection of our quality of life.
Hopefully, Stony Point can serve as a model for other towns and villages to follow.
It's Supply and Demand
LAND USE REGULATION
When my father bought the land I live on, it was a Revolutionary Era farm. Much has changed since then, as the town has become quite suburban.
One thing that has not changed is our Constitution and its Bill of Rights. It guarantees our right to use and enjoy property; the right to exercise religious faith; and the right not to be burdened by other people's religious faith.
Land use regulation implicates each of these rights.
Stony Point can serve as a model for sound land use, respecting basic rights, or it can be unthoughtful and unwise. Describe below is the means for principled and wise land use regulation.
MASTER PLAN UPDATING
A land use "Comprehensive Plan" should sensibly Guide our town's Land Use
Each town and village in NYS should adopt a Comprehensive Plan (a/k/a Master Plans) to guide its land use regulation for the purpose of sensible and environmentally-protective land use.
Under state law, regional needs must be considered. Exclusionary zoning is not permitted.
Stony Point has within its borders four large parcels of land that require our attention.
1. The Patriot Hills Golf Course and adjoining Letchworth land has been sold by the Town Board, SUBJECT TO the outcome of an Election Day referendum vote. If this land stays in private hands, many people fear that this new "supply" of land will become high density Hasidic housing, based upon the high "demand" for housing by the Hasidic community.
2. Camp Bullowa is being put up for sale by the Boy Scouts. Again, many people fear that if this land become owned by a developer, it will eventually become high density housing.
3. The US Gypsum company closed its plant on the Hudson waterfront, and the land has been left vacant and idle. This is along a beautiful portion of the River.
4. Harriman Park. A large portion of the largest and most splendid state park in southern NYS is located within Stony Point's borders. We must not ignore this recreational asset.
TAKEN TOGETHER, the above parcels of land present a tremendous opportunity to better the town--economically, recreationally and environmentally. Covid-19 has resulted in a new world with new lifestyle changes (e.g., much more telecommunication) and economic opportunity. THIS IS THE TIME to update the Town's Master Plan, and ideally, to "connect up" the above parcels to better the Town, economically, recreationally and environmentally. The quality of our life as Town residents may depend upon it.
PATRIOT HILLS GOLF/
Is it Wise to Place Public Land into Private Hands?
The first of four large parcels of land discussed below is the Town of Stony Point's Patriot Hills Golf Course and adjoining Letchworth land. The sale of this land is subject to a permissive referendum to be held on Election Day.
If the voters allow the sale, so that the ownership and development of this land is in private hands, then what stops the land from eventually becoming high density housing? The answer is "the present land use regulation--regulation that can be changed by the Town Board at any time."
If, for example, the new owner (an L.L.C.) finds that it cannot make a profit by its intended use (e.g., golf course and hotel/conference center), then it would certainly ask the Town Board to allow it a profitable use. One very profitable use would be to sell or develop the land for high density housing. There is a high demand for housing by the ultraorthodox community, due to its rapid population growth. That community has the economic wherewithal to develop residential housing. State law prohibits exclusionary zoning and requires consideration of regional housing needs. Thus, how could the owner say "no" to high density housing? And how would the Town survive a civil rights/RLUIPA lawsuit if it refused to allow such housing?
Thus, the only way to be certain that the Patriot Hills Golf Course/Letchworth land does not become moderate or high density housing, perhaps accompanied by one or more yeshivas and perhaps a rabbinical college, is the keep the land in public hands--with title owned by the Town. Otherwise, the end result will likely be governed by the law of "supply and demand."
There is one other important aspect of “supply and demand,” and that is that there has been a very sound demand for the golf course by golfer, with the golf course making a substantial profit this year. With the bond almost fully paid off within 2 years, many people ask “why sell now?—it’s like selling your house at a fire sale price after paying 19 years of a 20 year mortgage.” This is a Town Board transparency issue, as it seems the golf course has been profitable all along.
Zone Camp Bullowa for its intended use, and what it has been used for-- camping, fishing and hiking.
For reasons that perplex this writer, the Town Board apparently fails to recognize that it has the power to re-zone the Camp Bullowa land to allow ONLY its present uses, which are basically camping, fishing and hiking. The present Master Plan is in accord, and if not, an updated Master Plan should make unequivocally clear that the Camp Bullowa land should be zoned exclusively for recreational uses.
If a potential purchaser wishes to buy the land under such zoning, that will be such purchaser's rights. It would likely be a low purchase price, as land zoned solely for parkland has far less value than land zoned for high density housing, commercial or industrial use.
The Town might even consider purchasing the re-zoned land itself (or taking it through its power of eminent domain), in which case it would be in the very enviable position of owning a recreational assets for the townspeople. It might even rent or lease the land back to the Boy Scouts. This would be a "win - win" situation. (The only loser would be potential Boy Scouts bankruptcy creditors, and these creditors need not benefit at Stony Point's expense.)
Thus, many Stony Point resident may like the word "Stop" this year, as in
"Stop the Sale of Patriot Hills" and
"Stop the Sale of Camp Bullowa."
Many people may conclude that it is wise to keep recreational assets.
US GYPSUM ON HUDSON RIVER WATERFRONT
Wasted Riverfront Land, Wasted Opportunity
The US Gypsum company closed its plant on the Hudson waterfront, and the land has been left vacant and idle ever since. This is along a beautiful portion of the River.
Thus, we have an ugly "brownfield" on the east side of the Town, and beautiful Harriman State Park on the west side of the town.
Yet the Hudson River is beautiful near the old Gypsum facilities. So why not connect our Hudson River land to the largest and most splendid state park in southern NYS? And connect Patriot Hills and Camp Bullowa as well--as both lie in between? All it takes is some vision and brainstorming, which can and should be done within the framework of updating the Town's Master Plan.
Today, we have a tremendous opportunity to better the town--economically, recreationally and environmentally. Covid-19 has changed much. Virtual offices and telecommunication is the new norm, as are a bunch of new types of cultural and economic opportunity. An updated Master Plan can "connect up" the above parcels. This will help the Town economically, recreationally and environmentally. It's our future and our quality of life.