Sometimes things are what they seem to be. Sometimes they’re not. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether or not they are as they seem to be. And sometimes, just sometimes, a clarification emerges.
A deed transfer for was filed February 26 with the Ulster County clerk’s office transferring the spectacular 571.7-acre central parcel of the Winston Farm from Winston Farms Limited Partnership, whose longtime general partner is Frank Schaller, to Saugerties NY Hospitality LLC, whose signatory was listed as Bipin Patel, for a listed full sale price of $836,879.81.
Patel has received approval from the Saugerties town planning board to build an 86-unit Holiday Inn Express on a ten-acre site subdivided off the larger tract. Water supply problems are still to be resolved. Patel and his brother are also developing Kingston Commons, a key property on Washington Avenue near the Exit 19 traffic roundabout in Ulster.
The back taxes on the Winston Farm land parcel for 2013, 2014 and 2015, now fully paid off, were about $650,000, according to the county finance office. The 2016 property taxes of about $158,500 in school, town and county taxes were also paid at closing.
Does this mean the property, key to development schemes for the town west of the Thruway, was irretrievably sold for the back taxes?
That’s what the deed seems to say. It says the Patel family, local engineers and the developers of near-Thruway hospitality businesses, have become the owners of the heart of the legendary Saugerties landholding in exchange for paying four years of taxes on the property.
Wait a minute. The price is low, suspiciously low, less than a tenth of what the Schallers have claimed to be the land’s value.
Though a property selling for its back taxes is never a total surprise, there are other possibilities. More than one usually reliable local source who spoke only on condition that they not be identified agreed on a possible alternative scenario. They said the seller, the Schaller family, may have a year to get the property back from the buyer. The Schallers expect to sell another family business to raise cash during that time, they said.
Is that alternate scenario the way things really are? The answer is yes.
On Tuesday afternoon, May 31, a phone call came in from Jeremy Schaller. He said that only the ten acres have been sold. The remaining acreage has been transferred to Patel, who has agreed to turn it back over to the Schaller family when the money is paid back within a year. Ten of the twelve months remain. February 2017 is the give-back month.
Woodstock ’94 was held on the 25th anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Festival held in the town of Bethel in Sullivan County.
Those festivals and the more recent Hudson Project held two years ago on the Winston Farm shared a similar fate — music lovers and their vehicles were mired in seas of mud.
Woodstock music promoter Michael Lang, who was involved in all three festivals when seeking governmental approvals for the Hudson Project, talked of grandiose plans to turn the Winston Farm into another Saratoga Performing Arts Center that would draw top-notch musical acts, which, in turn, would bring tourist, and music-lovers’ dollars into the Saugerties economy.
Patel’s plans, other than to build a motel on the subdivided ten acres of the property, are not known at the present time.