A town hall meeting called by Hurley supervisor John Perry for September 17, part of a promise he made when running for his office two years ago, as a means of providing greater access to town matters for West Hurley residents, ended up drawing approximately 50 people and focusing on a single issue — the redevelopment of the former West Hurley Elementary School into housing.
According to town supervisor John Perry, who scheduled the town hall meeting to get “feedback from our town’s communities for the budget I’m putting together for the town, and to see if there are any issues we need to be focusing on,” several residents came up to him after he had closed the meeting to say they’d felt uncomfortable speaking because of the crowd’s focus on Cedar East Development LLC, being proposed by New York City developer Kerry Danenberg and partners.
“There were rabble rousers in the parking lot handing out questions,” Perry said Wednesday in an interview about the meeting. “It was a smear campaign to make me and the town’s various boards look like morons.”
The questions Perry was referring to were more a series of talking points related to the Danenberg project and recent statements from town officials regarding it and a townwide moratorium on multi-unit projects passed in June. Did it still apply to the school project, which developers have said will now be for condominiums instead of market rentals? Was the town attempting to hide underhanded deals to help Danenberg and other developers, especially along the Route 28 corridor, which previous town boards had long ago denied Scenic Highway status for?
Perry explained that there has been no formal application from Danenberg et. al. regarding Cedar East because there has yet been no closing on the property’s sale by the Onteora School District. The developer has an agreement with the school district, the supervisor added, which allows them to extend their contract for purchase with a new $10,000 investment into an escrow account every 90 days, with such funds to eventually go against the final purchase cost. No date has been set for the closing.
Because there has been no closing, meaning no actual sale of the school property, no formal application regarding the property’s redevelopment has been made. Similarly, no lawsuits have been filed based on the town’s moratorium, which Danenberg and his company have no legal standing to complain about.
Regarding the moratorium, which is for six months (into December) with an option for the town to expand it by three months, it does not affect any testing or formal studies the proposed developers have undertaken with the school district’s permission, for later use in a SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) process, which can’t start until a formal application is submitted. The moratorium, Perry noted, only applies to the granting of permits for multi-unit projects. Furthermore, it was set in place so the town can straighten out its zoning ordinance, most of it passed 50 years ago, and deal with multi-unit projects moving forward.
Finally, the planning board is scheduled to get a new chair named at a town board meeting at town offices in Hurley Monday, September 23. Perry explained several personal matters and his need to move a former building inspector, Paul Economos, from the zoning board into that chairmanship in spite of the Economos’ having recently moved out of town. But Economos, he said, is planning to find a home back in town. In the meantime, Perry said, he’ll have needed experience and there are no laws on the town book’s barring Economos from serving on a volunteer board.
It’s the school district’s sale
At the September 17 meeting, opponents of the Danenberg project reiterated the developers’ reputation (unsavory, according to them), and legal wrangling from New York City projects he’s undertaken, and asked why the town wasn’t doing more to prevent him from purchasing the former school. Wouldn’t it be better to create a senior and community center there?
“The developers, who I haven’t spoken to since the moratorium was put into effect, have said they’re 100 percent determined to continue with their plans to purchase the school,” Perry responded to those final comments on Wednesday. “We have no control on the property’s sale.”
Continuing, the supervisor and GOP candidate for reelection expressed frustration.
“It’s sad that no other issues or budget concerns were able to come forth at this meeting,” he said. “I’m not sure I know how to educate these folks any more.”