Unpopular Copake hamlet plan stalls for lack of funding
COPAKE–The 122-acre cornfield between the hamlet and the town hall–the proposed site of a controversial 138-unit senior and mixed-income housing development called Copake Green–is now up for sale. The asking price is $1.2 million.
And unless someone ready, willing and able to invest in the housing project shows up before the property is sold, Copake Green will be nothing more than a not-so-fond memory for many in town who never thought it was a good idea.
“With a profound sense of disappointment, Housing Resources’ Board of Directors has concluded that the prospect of successfully developing our Copake Green property to provide a wide variety of housing opportunities for Columbia County residents cannot support additional allocation of agency resources,” Housing Resources of Columbia County Executive Director Kevin O’Neill wrote in a prepared statement about the situation.
“As a result of this decision, we are placing the property on the market for sale. While the property is on the market, we will continue our efforts to find an investor/partner to move the project forward,” he said.
Housing Resources, a non-profit affordable housing developer with headquarters in Hudson, first proposed the Copake housing development as a possible 24- to 36-unit project six years ago. Mr. O’Neill was invited by town officials to pursue an affordable housing project locally and he met with the town’s Economic Advisory Board to discuss the project in March 2004.
Housing Resources purchased the 122-acre agricultural property from Odyssey Farm South, Inc. later that year for $650,000.
But by the time a preliminary presentation about the housing project first surfaced at a Planning Board meeting in December 2005, it had grown to a proposal for 138 housing units on 118 lots.
At public question and answer sessions conducted by the Planning Board in April and May 2006, people raised concerns about everything from the kind of lighting that would illuminate the development to increased traffic and worries over sewage and well water.
The project remained active on the Planning Board agenda until late in 2006.
In March 2007, news of financial difficulties encountered by Housing Resources–an unfavorable audit and embezzlement by an employee–came to light, and the project lay dormant, although Mr. O’Neill reported that engineering and development activities were ongoing along with environmental studies.
Mr. O’Neill appeared again before the Planning Board in June 2009, assuring board members that his agency was ready to pick up where it left off 2½ years before. That never happened.
Recent news stories have chronicled Housing Resources’ debts, especially to the City of Hudson for unpaid water and sewer bills, and its inability to secure loans to pay pre-development costs.
Contacted for comment, Copake Supervisor Reggie Crowley said of the Copake Green project: “This definitely was a major issue in the 2007 town election. I think the reason [the election] turned out the way it did was because we [the Republicans] opposed such a large development in the center of town from the beginning. I hope whoever buys the property will use it for something that will complement our community.”
“I am pleasantly surprised,” Democratic Councilwoman Linda Gabaccia said. “I always felt the scale and scope of the project was not right for Copake. I hope someone purchases it who has the best interests of Copake in mind,” she said. Ms. Gabaccia, who received a less than enthusiastic response to her suggestion some time ago that the town develop a plan for the potential purchase of the property, said this week that “the town should certainly discuss that the land is for sale, it’s in a crucial part of town.”
“We are delighted to see an end to the uncertainty and anxiety over the Copake Green proposal,” said Diana Wilson, chair of the Friends of Copake, a local civic advocacy group that opposed the Copake Green project due to the impact the sizable development would have on the town. “Serious surveys of the 122-acre site selected for the Copake Green proposal… suggested that this field may not be well suited for this type of residential development,” she said in a written statement.
Though the parcel is zoned residential, there has never been any residential development on it, and the Friends of Copake “advocate re-zoning the property as agricultural, in perpetuity.”
During an interview about another affordable housing initiative April 6, Mr. O’Neill told The Columbia Paper that he had listed the property for sale with Coldwell Banker Bartolotta Associates in Hudson last week.
He said his agency had invested $1.5 million in the project in engineering and development costs and drilled two wells on the property.
Mr. O’Neill called the Copake Green project an “ambitious endeavor to meet the local housing demand for family and senior home ownership,” senior and family rental units and “to provide such housing in one of the most unaffordable sectors of the county. While it pains Housing Resources, the most aggrieved are the families and seniors who have and continue to sustain Columbia County, but are still priced out of the local real estate markets.”
Mr. O’Neill thanked supporters of the development and his agency, noting, “While there has been vocal opposition to this housing proposal, we have appreciated the support and encouragement of those who understood the tremendous need for housing choice throughout the county and appreciated the quality of the development intended.”