Despite the protestations of Wilmorite, Inc. regarding its necessity, the long-awaited independent review of the developer’s financial impact data related to its Park Point project has been delivered to the town Planning Board. We now see why various corporate representatives and attorneys for the developer, as well as landowner/developer Michael Moriello, an interested party in the project, fought so hard against the Planning Board’s requirement of this objective assessment. It turns out that Wilmorite’s projections for revenues to local businesses and the cost of community services to the town were, as many citizens had repeatedly warned, inaccurate. Further, Wilmorite’s methodologies for calculating financial impacts of the project have also been found wanting.
To begin with, according to the independent consultant’s report submitted a few weeks ago, Wilmorite’s consultants made a fundamental mistake in their choice of the appropriate ‘target area’ for economic impact. The report states, “The Wilmorite EIS analysis selects the Town of New Paltz as the ‘target area’ for the economic impact. We think that this is incorrect — it is impossible to determine economic impact on such a small geography…In our view, the proper impact area is either Ulster County or Ulster and Dutchess counties.” Essentially this means that all of Wilmorite’s projections having to do with direct and indirect impacts of spending on the project cannot be relied upon.
From the inception of the project, SUNY administrators and Wilmorite representatives have stressed that the intended tenants of the for-profit project, to be built on non-SUNY lands, would be students who already attend the college, with Wilmorite going on to claim that “…there will be $2.6 million of net new discretionary spending at local businesses by students and faculty living at the project.” The Planning Board’s independent consulting team challenges this claim: “We conclude that the economic impact of tenant spending will be small…It is likely that much of the economic activity is already being captured by town businesses, as the students and faculty already come to New Paltz on a regular basis.” There’s a Wilmorite whopper.
To add insult to injury, Wilmorite’s submissions in support of its request to avoid paying its fair share of real estate taxes on this proposed $50 million for-profit development claim that they will spend $2.9 million per year in annual maintenance projects. Not so, say the outside reviewers, “…annual maintenance would be just over $0.8 million, not $2.9 million.” Another whopper.
Basically the Planning Board’s independent consultant has shown that the key underlying assumptions and estimates submitted by Wilmorite cannot be trusted and now the town must do its own due diligence before any decisions can be made by the Planning Board on the true impact of the project on the future economic environment of the Town of New Paltz. Early on in the process, citizens of this town and students at the college called into question the adequacy of the environmental impact statement (EIS) submitted by Wilmorite. The now accepted Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) contains the same flaws, misstatements, inaccuracies and untruths.
The town Planning Board has scheduled a public hearing on the FEIS for Nov. 25. The FEIS and the independent consultant’s report are available by contacting the Planning Board secretary. All those interested in this project have an opportunity to make their voices heard at the public hearing.
B is for me
Congratulations and thanks to the members of the New Paltz Central School District Board of Education. This hard-working group has done everything they can think of to invite public input and inform the taxpayers of New Paltz, Gardiner and Esopus of the need to update and maintain our schools.
Based on their deliberations and hours of listening to public comment and reading e-mails, the board members have narrowed their focus to two basic approaches to ensure that students, teachers and staff will have a safe and educationally supportive physical environment in which to carry out their activities. The options are now designated by the letters “A” and “B” and we can learn more about them on the school district website and by attending or watching the videos of future meetings. Personally, “B” is for me.
The planning process can now proceed in full view of the community as the board members gather information and help us all to gain an understanding of the options we have. The board has demonstrated a respect for the ideas and suggestions of community members who have shown up to be involved in the process. This board is providing an excellent example of efficiency and effectiveness for our town and village governmental bodies, a nice gift to us all as we approach the holiday season.