Planners Review Glenclyffe Development
The Philipstown Planning Board’s new digs at the Butterfield Library are cozy in comparison with the old meeting venue at the Cold Spring VFW hall, but overall, the change of location is an improvement. The chairs are comfortable and the audience is much closer to the board, and therefore able to better grasp the action, not to mention hear what is going on.
At Thursday’s session there was a 6-item agenda, including several potentially important projects for Philipstown, notably the conversion of the existing Guinan’s property on Garrison’s Landing to a 7-room hotel and a 39-seat restaurant/wine bar; and the proposed Entergy emergency operations center on Route 9 at Horsemen’s Trail. But neither of those discussions offered anything new of significance.
Most noteworthy was the public hearing held for the subdivision of land at Glenclyffe owned by the Open Space Conservancy, Inc., which is interesting mostly for the fact that the large tract of land is being broken up into three lots, two of which could be developed for residences, albeit with the 20-acre “institutional” zoning that currently applies to the land there, and retaining public access.
Board consultant Susan Jainchill asked presenter Glennon Watson, of Badey & Watson, for assurance that there would be continued public access to Arnold’s Flight—the historic path said to be used by the notorious Revolutionary Warera spy during his escape from the Hudson Valley. Watson replied that the path is near the property line and in a deep gully, “far away from any of the proposed developments”—so it is unlikely to be disturbed—and that preservation of such access could be included in the deed when the land is sold.
It was also asked if there would be any encroachment on athletic fields belonging to Philipstown Recreation, which occupies a building on the Glenclyffe site along with a nonprofit, The Garrison Institute. Watson said no.
There was some concern about the ability of new owners to further subdivide the 20-acre plots once the land was sold. Attorney Steve Gaba said that a new purchaser could seek a variance to further subdivide, despite the 20-acre institutional zoning, and wouldn’t even necessarily have to seek re-zoning of the land.
The Open Space Conservancy, Inc. is “a supporting organization of Open Space Institute, Inc.” According to its mission statement, OSI “protects scenic, natural and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and sustain communities.” To date it has preserved more than 10,000 acres in Philipstown.
We contacted OSI’s Manhattan office to learn more. Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO, told the PCN&R that the subdivision of the Glenclyffe property was a “smart sale” of open space and a better use of OSI’s capital than hanging on to it would be.
The property has already cost the Institute about $10 million, Elliman said, including the $7.5 million purchase price and carrying costs. Additionally, OSI has effectively not seen any return of capital on transfers of property to either the Garrison Institute, or the Town of Philipstown.
Elliman strenuously defended OSI’s role in the current subdivision process by saying “We are not a park organization…. Our job is not to hold on to land forever.” Rather, in a case like this one, the Institute would prefer to “recycle” property and assets into the acquisition of other land. He offered as an example the water tower currently on the property, which is in serious need of re-painting. Philipstown Recreation, the Garrison Institute, and OSI are required to share equally in the maintenance of the tower, which OSI does not use. “Technically, we’re on the hook for that,” Elliman said. This subdivision and a subsequent sale would remove that obligation.
Regarding the Mystery Point property, also in Garrison, which OSI recently sold to billionaire Jon Stryker of Kalamazoo, Mich., Elliman stressed that most of the 129-acre property would remain open to the public (a 21-acre parcel would be Stryker’s private land). That property was on the market for four years, he noted: “We took the highest offer,” and that was at a loss, since OSI paid $10 million for the land that was sold to Stryker at just $4 million.
In other business, the Board granted an extension to Philipstown Square, discussed Arthur Fisher’s proposal for a minor project on Sky Lane, in Garrison, at the town line with Putnam Valley, and heard C.F. Diversified’s application for a two-lot subdivision of land surrounding the Cyberchron building on Route 9. The property, which is on the market, has generated purchaser interest in either the building or the surrounding land, but not both.