Plan for new joint municipal center leads to tension on New Paltz Town Board

The newest potential site for a joint municipal center — the Gateway building on Route 32 North in New Paltz. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Forays into the newest potential site for a joint municipal center — the Gateway building on North Chestnut Street — have led to more tension and more split votes at the New Paltz Town Board table. Even agreeing on whether to discuss the matter in executive session couldn’t get a unanimous vote last Thursday night.

Supervisor Neil Bettez asked for the executive session to discuss the acquisition of real property, but council member Marty Irwin wanted to know what property before the vote was taken.

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“That defeats the purpose of executive session,” Bettez told him.

Irwin’s interpretation of open meetings law is that unless there’s a contract being negotiated, but Bettez’s understanding of the law, article 7 of the state public officers’ law, is broader. A read of the language shows that one of the enumerated reasons for executive session is “the proposed acquisition, sale or lease of real property or the proposed acquisition of securities, or sale or exchange of securities held by such public body, but only when publicity would substantially affect the value thereof.” Bettez stated he believed that discussion about the sale in public could impact its value, and only Irwin and Jeff Logan voted against moving into executive session.

Village officials were given different advice by their attorney, and have openly discussed the building in question at their meetings. That’s a point which Irwin has made more than once.

Once they returned to public session, Bettez moved to appoint commercial real estate broker Matt Eyler to work with town officials on the transaction in question. Irwin wanted to ask him about his qualifications prior to voting, which Bettez insisted should also take place in executive session. That secrecy is permitted for “matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person,” but when Eyler was asked if he’d be willing to speak in public, he was amenable.

Logan grilled Eyler on exactly what services he’d be providing, and noted whenever his words appeared to contradict the brokers’ agreement. For example, Logan pointed out that Eyler advised in that document that he cannot provide technical or financial services, yet he was apparently being asked to do such things. Eyler tried to clarify, explaining that a financial analysis of real property is not the same as financial services, which Logan identified as the purview of the town’s bond attorney in this context. Logan did not appear to agree with Eyler’s assessment of the extent of what he might be able to do for the town.

Irwin, saying he wanted to avoid a “rush to judgment,” asked Eyler if he’d be able to analyze the subject property against building new on the town’s Veterans Drive property. The town government moved into its modular digs on Clearwater Road in 2014 due to persistent health woes traced to black mold infestation in the old town hall on Veterans Drive, which was demolished this past June. Irwin and Logan maintain that acquiring a building that’s more than 50 years old would not be as cost-effective as starting from nothing. Bettez has, in the past, articulate a strategy that’s based on the various state grants which are offered to encourage shared services or outright consolidation of governments.

Part of the rush, Logan said, was the idea that anyone would be purchasing a building which is not only old, but currently subject to a moratorium in the village. That six-month moratorium was adopted on February 22, and cannot be renewed.

Bettez finally cut off discussion, saying that it had devolved from interviewing Eyler to grandstanding about the broader issue, and Eyler’s services were secured 3-2, with Irwin and Logan again opposed. Eyler will only make money if a purchase is made, and that commission would be paid by the seller.

There are 3 comments

  1. UpstateGuy

    Wow. Seriously?!
    Oh if I were in charge. First, I’d force the merger of the Town of New Paltz and the Village of New Paltz.
    I’d collapse all services into one centralized source. I’d eliminate all redundant jobs. I’d get a
    shared municipal services facility built at this very site.

    I’d pave Main Street.

    I’d get rid of the ridiculous ‘moratorium’ and in doing so, get CVS and 5 Guys built with the condition that they help the new Town of New Paltz build wide sidewalks through the area, clearly marked pedestrian crosswalks and be part of the kick-off of building a steel truss grade separated pedestrian-bike bridge across the Thruway just north and parallel to 299.

    I’d get the old 87 Motel Site, including tearing down the abandoned graffiti scared Gemini Restaurant torn down and get a Marriott Courtyard or other Marriott/Hilton brand hotel built on that site. I’d extend the sidewalk-bike path all the way to Ohioville Road.

    I’d get us started on building Zero Place – another symptom of New Paltz’s dysfunction in the inability to
    approve this wonderful project.

    We’d get the proposed theatre built, we’d get the proposed hotel and parking deck built. We’d get the China House building next to Chase rehabilitated – it is an eyesore…and we’d get the other eyesores and outdated student housing along Main Street rehabilitated.

    This place is crazy because you – fight the very things that WILL allow us to pave our streets, upgrade our public spaces, and repair or refurbish the plethora of ugly, outdated or abandoned sites/buildings along Main Street.

    The fact that these two entities cave to every NIMBY whine, and then can’t even come together to get our municipal services combined into one facility, then turn around and complain about lack of new tax revenue, lack of new jobs, lack of new housing…is laughable and suggests you ALL NEED TO GO.

    Oh, I would have us safe and sound with a temporary water source by now, as well. But…that’s just me.
    The rest of you can wallow in the dysfunction and paralysis if that’s what gets you off.

    1. Villager

      Can’t “force” the Village to do anything. Its the hole in the donut, the tail that wags the dog, controls the water. The grants and the volunteer fire dept which gradewise is at the bottom of the ladder

      Main St belongs to the state of NY. No paving, parades or poaching

      The tax base is not divided into commercial taxes and non commercial taxes. Read your local tax bills

    2. Villager II

      NYC water announced 47 years ago it was shutting down the aqueduct. The village allowed the town to create more town usage and the village sold the water to town users at a higher rate than village users because the village was violating the village water contract with NYC by selling water outside the village. Get it? The village and town both require your, editorially, ignorance
      Next time it rains hard and well visit the roaring manhole pouring out raw sewage on water street between the rail trail and plains road where it flows out the pipe directly into the river causing green algae. The sewage can’t flow uphill to the sewage plant and hasn’t since the plant was put in in 1969

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