Saugerties officials like festival plan

Michael Lang returns to Winston Farm (photo Dion Ogust)

Saugerties Town Supervisor Kelly Myers is excited about something happening at Winston Farm, the 850-acre property across from the New York Thruway southbound exit where Woodstock ’94 happened, and rock entrepreneur Michael Lang is now hoping to put together a facility for an ongoing series of mid-sized summer music festivals starting next summer. She remembers how much she liked the music at that huge event 18 years ago, as well as how quiet it left Saugerties, and her then-hometown of Woodstock, at the time…despite numerous predictions to the contrary.

Myers spoke this week about a meeting she had recently with Lang and Jeremy Schaller, who has been representing the interests of he and his four uncles who own the Winston Farm, and pointed out that there were no official meetings — or actions — planned for Lang’s plans, or the massive site, until a more formal proposal is presented in the coming weeks.

“We need to see things in writing,” Myers said this week, while news bounced about regarding other possible industrial plans for the Winston Farm property. “But I can say that at this point, what Mike and Jeremy are proposing sounds good to all of us on the town board.”

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Concurrent with the announcement of Lang’s and Schaller’s plans, a real estate consulting firm based in the Albany area has been promoting its own plans for a technology complex with possible computer chip manufacturing on the Schaller’s property, and representatives of the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency acknowledged having had their own meetings with that same company, Prime Developers, of Latham, regarding uses for Winston Farm.

Before Lang stepped in and put on the Woodstock ’94 25th anniversary of the gargantuan festival he ended up putting on in Bethel, NY in 1969, Winston Farm had been eyed as the potential site for a county-wide landfill. In more recent years the scenic property was also eyed as a potential location for a casino, to which Saugerties residents, and their elected representatives, have repeatedly come out in vehement opposition.

In all cases, including the latest brouhaha over the possibility of an IDA-approved and backed manufacturing site at Winston Farm, it bears repeating that the property is privately owned, with its owners — the Schaller Family — ultimately deciding its fate.

 

Jobs, but no dump or casino

Myers, in a phone interview this week, took a sober look, and gave a straightforward overview, to all the recent talk about Saugerties’ future as related to the Winston Farm.

“I tell everybody who comes to us with development plans for that property the same thing: Saugerties is very clear about not wanting a dump or a casino there. We do need jobs, though,” Myers said. “If there’s to be any sort of light industrial use on the farm, it cannot be a polluter. That’s the message our town asks us to pass on, on a consistent basis.”

Myers noted what a great location Winston Farm is, being two hours drive time from New York City, just over three hours to Boston or Philadelphia, and around four hours to Montreal. With a good, well-educated workforce.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for the right business,” she continued.

She said that any talks of nanotech developments, or IDA involvement, has been “speculative” to date, and involved “three different ideas, as far as I can remember.”

The supervisor called all the talk, besides that coming from Lang and property owner Schaller, as being “prospecting sort of stuff so I won’t comment further on any of it.”

Myers noted that the festival facilitation plan being put forth by Lang and the Schallers has a number of benefits going for it, in the town’s (and town board’s) eyes, including its lightness on infrastructure needs, including school and other town resource functions; its tourism draw — which fits into existing growth plans for Saugerties; and its manageable scale.

“Of course, the other concern we all have is for sustainable jobs,” the supervisor continued. “Right now we have a population of 23,000 here, and only 3,200 jobs. We want to be more than a bedroom community…”

In the final analysis, it comes down to what the Schallers want for Winston Farm, given that they own the place.

“We’ll see what it all turns into,” Myers said, at the end of her interview…noting how she was still holding out hope for a more permanent performing arts center in her town. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s all quite exciting. Isn’t it?”

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