1,195 homes to be built over the next decade

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:52

    TUXEDO-The Tuxedo Town Board set in motion Monday night what could be the largest housing development in Orange County history - 1,195 homes on 1,200 acres off Route 17. The development is known as the Tuxedo Reserve, and Monday's decision came 15 years after the Manhattan-based developer first proposed putting up thousands of housing units in Tuxedo. And it may take nearly as long to see the completion of the project, as the houses and condos will be constructed in several phases. When it's finished, as many as 2,400 new residents could be added to a town that 3,300 people now call home. A number of the 50 or so people at Monday's town board meeting acknowledged how the development will affect the town, its school district, its library, its tax base, its downtown business and traffic. Those were among the critical issues discussed and negotiated over the years that lead to the board's decision Monday. After the meeting, project manager Glen Vetromile noted that while the project still needs planning board and other related approvals, he expected construction to begin late next year. The property is located off Route 17 south of Tuxedo Park. The housing will range in price from $300,000 for two-bedroom condominiums up to $1 million for large homes. The Town Board actually took three separate votes Monday. The first was to adopt a local law, "Tuxedo Reserve Amendments of Zoning Map." Another an environmental findings statement. And the third was to grant a special permit for the development. In each case, Supervisor Kenneth R. Magar Sr. and council members William Lemanski, Alyse McCathern and Francine Rauch voted yes, while councilman Kevin M. Didriksen voted no. Although there were a good number of clarifications, there was no debate. This issue has been before the town since 1989 when R.H. Tuxedo Development, L.P., first submitted its application for 2,856 housing units and more than one million square feet of light industrial and office use. In the ensuing years, the number of housing units has been reduced to 1,195 and the non-residential uses in the Planned Integrated Development decreased to 266,000 square feet. The votes taken Monday govern things such as soil, tree and land conservation, a bus stop and more than 700 acres in the project's northern tract that will remain undeveloped and could end up under the domain of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. There also will be an annual payment of $150,000 in lieu of taxes for 14 years. In this way, the town will receive revenue on the low-tax vacant land while construction is underway and before individual property taxes are generated. There also are agreements under which the developer would contribute $350,000 to the town's Power House Project along the Ramapo River as part of a $2 million grant program. The power house is a turn-of-the century hydro electric plan that once belonged to Orange & Rockland Utilities that the town purchased several years ago with an eye toward creating a river walk park. There also would be $1 million available in business loans to downtown merchants. The developer also has donated 40 acres for a new high school. Half an acre also will be set aside for a library annex within the development; the library will have 12 years to come up with the funding or the property would revert back to the developers. The resolutions and local law also restrict the number of bedrooms per units can be built in the general population part of the development, but not in the age-restricted area. They also require the developer to monitor the wells for property owners on Hillside Avenue, Southside Place and Mountain Road, which are all adjacent to Tuxedo Reserve, during construction. Should these wells fall below draw down levels as described in a nine-point protocol, the developer is required to restore the wells' capacity at no expense to the property owners. After the vote, the board members talked about the work that was still ahead of the town and its people. "It's been a real long journey," councilman Lemanski said. "But it's a journey that's just beginning. There's been a lot of detailed analysis that went into these approvals. But none of this will end with (tonight's) approvals." Several audience members also asked that the town board work more closely with the school board as the project unfolds. It could mean more students and the need for a new school at a time when the Greenwood Lake School District is considering whether to build its own high school rather than send their students to George F. Baker Tuxedo High School. "If a community does not have a good public school," councilwoman Rauch responded, "the community has very little. That's why the school's role is important in these discussions." Finally, Magar noted: "A lot of people will come and go on this board before this is finished, so we will need your help."