An “indignant” Mayor Bill Murphy blasted local realtor, landlord and subsidized housing foe Steve Hubbard at the Village Board’s March 18 meeting for accusing him of “making a backroom, handshake deal” on tax payments for the proposed 55-unit Country Meadows project.
Murphy said that after meeting several times with the realtor to discuss the issue, and explaining the village could get more money if it renegotiated a previous payment in lieu of taxes [pilot] agreement, Hubbard made misleading comments at a public meeting that appeared on public access television.
“I’m a little upset,” said Murphy. “We’ve had a number of private meetings where we talked about Country Meadows and the pilot, and then you went on TV … and lied.”
The normally easygoing mayor then issued a threat.
“I went out and got the village a better deal than the one that was made four years ago, and if you continue to accuse me of making a backroom deal, I will sue you for slander,” he said.
Hubbard apologized, saying his comments “were not an attack on you.”
“I am not against subsidized housing, and I am not for it,” Murphy said. “But this project has been going on for four years, and if we don’t give them a pilot, then the county or the state can, so we are trying to get the best rate possible.”
Murphy said the village was able to up the terms from $300 to $400 per unit for the project. The previous agreement was made when the project was senior housing only — the plan now includes units for low-income families and single-occupancy.
Murphy noted that when Diamond Mills was in pilot discussions with the village, the School Board would not agree to the terms, so the county stepped in and worked out a deal — a deal that was not as good for taxpayers as the one the village had.
“The School Board did not back me, and we got a worse deal with the one the county did,” Murphy said.
Hubbard’s accusation was made during a recent meeting of sacred, a group formed to oppose low-income subsidized housing. He said Saugerties doesn’t need more affordable housing stock — he’s renting apartments starting at $650/mo and has several vacancies.
Trustee Vincent Buono told Hubbard that the amount of low-income units is a concern to the Village Board and trustees are considering implementing a moratorium on such units.
Alex Wade, in charge of special projects for the village and member of the Comprehensive Plan Committee, said that group wanted to put language in the document, “so that no more low-income rental units can be done, but we were told that we couldn’t do that.” Such language would be considered by state and federal officials as being discrimination and Saugerties would be forced to abide by its 1999 plan, which encouraged the construction of low-income units because, at the time, there were not enough in Saugerties, Wade said.
Hubbard again apologized, and trustees said they would wait to see if Simmons gets his state funding before moving forward with the pilot agreement.
Meanwhile, it’s not clear if the project is still moving forward. Pat Simmons of Premiere Development has not returned calls asking for comment about state financing. He had said in a conversation earlier this year that he hoped to hear from the state about the fate of the financing by the end of February, because without the financing the project would not be built.