Last minute offers fail to impress airport panel

HUDSON—Carmen Nero, the managing member of the group that owns Meadowgreens Golf Course on Route 9H in Ghent, shopped that 100-acre property to two committees of the county Board of Supervisors Committees this week. So far he has no takers.

The board’s Airport Committee voted unanimously Monday, February 24, to propose that the county create a runway protection zone at the north end of the runway that does not use Meadowgreens property. A short time later the Economic Development Committee gave the most recent proposals from Meadowgreens to Ken Flood, the county planning and economic development commissioner, for review.

At the Airport Committee, chairman Art Bassin (D-Ancram) noted that the committee’s charter was a narrow one: find the most sensible, least costly and least destructive way to create a safety area, called a runway protection zone or RPZ at the county airport just south of Meadowgreens. The committee’s preliminary conclusion, after four months of consulting with experts and the public and talking about it “ad nauseam,” said Mr. Bassin, was to shorten the current 5,350-foot runway to 5,000 feet and use the 350 feet as the RFP. This moves the part of the runway used for landings and takeoffs away from Meadowgreens, and does not require the purchase of any golf course land, although it may require the purchase of so-called avigation easements..

Mr. Nero previously rejected the county’s offer to pay $629,000 for a section of the golf course and for the costs associated with reconfiguring the parts of the golf course affected by the purchase. His latest counterproposals “in order of priority” were outlined in a February 21 letter to Mr. Bassin. In the first, he proposes the county buy the golf course property (four parcels) for a value to be determined by appraisal and then lease the entire property back to his company, CN Production Management Enterprises. He would operate the golf course and “[boost] economic development within the county.”

Or, the county could pay CN Production $629,000 for 15 acres plus easements on 90 acres and the costs of reconfiguring the golf course, for a total cost of about $1 million. Or, if the county declined these two options, it would leave Mr. Nero and the property alone, including no purchase of any additional land or easements other than those the county has held since 1966.

Paul Freeman, Mr. Nero’s attorney, pitched the committee on buying the whole property. “By shortening the runway, are we being shortsighted in long-term potential development, when a larger airport will be needed?” he asked.

The Federal Aviation Authority would “foot the bill” for the county, he said, with the county paying only 5% of the purchase price on a property that could be banked for long-term airport expansion and, in the meantime, be leased back to someone who would operate the golf course.

The FAA would pay 90% of the purchase price and the state and the county 5% each. Even at $1.5 million for Meadowgreens, said Mr. Freeman, the cost to the county would be only $75,000 for more than 100 acres. “Does it make sense, for that small amount of money, to put it under control of the county?” he asked.

Michael Benvenuto (R-Ghent) suggested that Mr. Freeman take the proposal to the county Economic Development Committee. “We’re the Airport Committee, and we have come up with a good plan for a safety zone without that property.”

“It’s above our pay grade,” quipped Mr. Bassin.

The county already has 350 acres at the airport, said Art Baer (D-Hillsdale). “We haven’t begun to tap into that, so I wouldn’t want to take on more opportunity.”

“Moving the airport south removes the need for more avigation easements from Meadowgreens,” said John Porreca (R-Greenport), who first introduced the solution the committee adopted.

“The only outstanding issue is avigation easements costing the county somewhere between $117,000 and $200,000,” said Mr. Bassin. “Spending $2 million for $200,00 worth of easements is not responsible.”

What’s more, he said, “the approach we’ve taken effectively separates the two issues. We can put the RPZ on land the county already owns and get FAA approval before the avigation easement problem is solved. We’ll get something done in a reasonable amount of time. That’s why this idea works. It doesn’t preclude the future purchase of Meadowgreens, but as chair of this committee, I don’t see it now.”

In a February 20 email, committee member Michael Benson (R-New Lebanon) advocated keeping the runway at 5,350 feet and making the necessary deal with Meadowgreens, but he did not attend the meeting and no one else took up his cause.

David Crawford of Crawford & Associates, engineers, said that Mr. Nero’s first proposal did “open up a whole huge door.”

“What happens when you walk through that door?” asked Mr. Bassin.

“I’m not sure at this point,” said Mr. Crawford. “The FAA funding is a big unknown.” He recommended that the county hire a law firm that understands “what’s out there for us” and evaluate Mr. Nero’s proposal and talk to the FAA about it.

The committee voted unanimously, however, to solve the RPZ issue without Meadowgreens. Mr. Crawford agreed to a new draft resolution for the Finance Committee and the full Board of Supervisors as long as it mentioned Mr. Nero’s proposals. Mr. Bassin will redraft the resolution and circulate it to the committee before its March 12 meeting.

At the Economic Development Committee meeting, Mr. Freeman again pitched the Meadowgreens property, stressing the minimal cost to the county in return for the needed easements and potential economic development. “The gravel resource on the land is significant,” he said. The county could lease the golf course, a new restaurant and an upgraded camping area, he said.

If he had a lease from the county, said Mr. Nero, the county and CN Production would have a public-private partnership. “We would work together as a team, generate jobs and get more in revenue than the county gets in taxes,” he said. The county’s purchase of the property would remove it from the tax rolls.

Mr. Nero leases land to Couturier North America / Hudson Valley Creamery. “They need more goats,” he said. “Let’s put them here,” he said, pointing to a map, “where all the county does now is mow.”

Memberships in the two committees overlap. “Wouldn’t the property be better off if the county didn’t move into Meadowgreens, if it moved south instead, allowing a larger viewshed by taking the airport away from it?” asked Mr. Baer. “There would be greater opportunity for the private owner.”

Mr. Bassin agreed: “The county can’t develop the property as well as you guys.”

Supervisor Patrick Grattan (R-Kinderhook) who chairs the Economic Development Committee as well as the full board, asked Mr. Flood, who was present at both meetings, to look into the Nero proposal and come back in a month with a report on costs and other details.







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