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Local village plans to spend $3M on parking lot & building, public is perplexed

ChairmanMeow

Cyburbian
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82
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3
I'm curious to hear what other planning people think of this purchase.
Short version - a local village wants to buy a parking lot and the building on it (which was used for testing and storing nail polish) from Avon Cosmetics. They say it's for reasons of economic development but a lot of people who live around here are suspicious.

My thoughts:
-I have to find parking downtown at least twice a week for a 1-hour appointment and I don't find it too hard to get a spot overall.
-The lot is next to the community center, which currently has a small-ish lot. If the goal is to allow for more parking at the community center, they should just come out and say that. Currently you can't park in the abandoned Avon lot when going to the community center.
-I've heard a number of people say that they consider the location of this parking lot to be too far from main downtown commercial cluster.
-As a voter and tax payer I'd prefer they spend a smaller amount of money to do environmental testing before shelling out $3M. Ideally Avon would pay for the testing if they want to sell so badly, but I'm not holding my breath.

Edit: I've had a few conversations regarding using eminent domain versus just purchasing the parcel. The biggest benefit I can see would be a lower cost, but I'm unsure if that 'extra' money would just end up getting spent on legal stuff instead.

I've included the text of the article in the local paper bc there's a paywall. (Highlights and emphasis are mine.)

Suffern eyes $2.9 million purchase of Avon warehouse, parking lot
The village of Suffern has negotiated a deal to buy Avon's warehouse and its nearly 2-acre parcel for almost $2.9 million to create more parking and potentially sell a piece to spur economic development in the downtown.

Avon's former Nail Enamel Building at 37 Washington Ave., Suffern, Oct. 31, 2019.

Avon's former Nail Enamel Building at 37 Washington Ave., Suffern, Oct. 31, 2019. (Photo: Carucha L. Meuse)

The purchase involves the cosmetic company's former Nail Enamel Building at 37 Washington Ave., which was used for testing and storing polish, and a parking lot. The 35,000-square-foot facility is now used for excess storage, Mayor Ed Markunas said.

Avon still maintains a research facility and adjoining parking lot nearby on Lafayette Avenue.

The village's Board Trustees will be considering a series of resolutions at its Nov. 6 meeting that would allow it to authorize issuing $3 million in bonds, with the additional money being used for environmental testing, attorney’s fees, title search, survey and costs related to acquiring the property.

A public hearing on the proposal will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 6, and a vote by the board could follow.

The parcel is adjacent to the village’s Community Center, Village Hall and two firehouses. {Except for the community center, adjacent is being used very generously here. It's a few blocks from Village Hall and 1 of the fire houses.}

As part of negotiations to buy the property, Avon has agreed to continue honoring its payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement with the Suffern Central school district, county, and town of Ramapo for the next five years, while the village would waive its share.

Markunas called the purchase "a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Village of Suffern. The property, located in the downtown area of the Village, is strategic due to its ample parking, which is key to the continued redevelopment of the Village. Securing this property now for municipal purposes allows the Village to ensure the property is available for a variety of potential municipal uses and potential opportunities for economic development."
His GOP running mates, incumbents Frank J. Hagen and Moira A. Hertzman, face opposition from a pair of Democrats, Charles Barone and Jo Meegan-Corrigan, in Tuesday's election.

Trustee Steven Alpert, a Democrat, acknowledged the need for parking but said his support for the purchase was tied to the village's prompt sale of the building to offset the cost.

"I feel that our taxes are already too high, so that I am only in favor of the project as long as we are able to sell the nail enamel factory building, thereby greatly reducing the costs that will need to be financed by bonds and paid for by higher taxes for village residents," Alpert said.

The improved fiscal health of the village — which recently got an upgraded bond rating from Moody's Investor Services — along with lower interest rates makes this a good time to finance the acquisition, Markunas said.

He said revenue from parking, should it be turned into a municipal parking lot, would help offset the annual cost of borrowing. {I am unsure atm how much the village makes from parking revenue.}

The announcement of the village's intentions so close to Election Day was necessary because it factors in a 50-day period after the Nov. 6 meeting during which residents can force the issue to a permissive referendum, the mayor said. This would require collecting signatures from 20% of Suffern's voters, he said.

Markunas, a Republican who is unopposed in seeking a third term on Nov. 5, says the proposal has the backing of all four trustees — one Democrat, one independent and two Republicans.
 
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ChairmanMeow

Cyburbian
Messages
82
Points
3
I emailed the village board members with my concerns and can post the text from the one response I've gotten so far, if people would like to see that.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
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13,825
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40
It's still too early, but I'm thinking that's a lot of money for a parking lot and building. Do they have someone on the hook for the building? If so, how much do they plan to sell the building for? Will that money go to pay off bonds or into the general fund? Can the bond be paid off early? Some of them can't. There just seems like there has to be some secondary thing going on that you would have to be a local to know about. Kind of like my last county I worked for who made a big deal about buying this piece of land at the edge of town. They traded prime real estate in the middle of town to get a promise from the city to extend services out to it when they wanted it. Then they put out a bond to build a new Expo Center. The voters turned that down. Now the county owns a useless piece of land and the land they traded had their existing Expo Center on it and the city wants to shut that down. My lesson in all that, get all your promises and key factors for a project nailed down ahead of time before you pull the trigger on other parts.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
13,825
Points
40
So my big question is who is going to buy this and how long will it take to get that deal done? I would hate to have the village take out a bond in the hopes that something will happen. Mostly because I'm cheap and don't like to pay taxes on hopes and dreams, but if you've got someone lined up then that changes the story. I can see some potential if there is a buyer on the line. If there is no buyer than maybe consider longer term bonds?
 

ChairmanMeow

Cyburbian
Messages
82
Points
3
Also wondering if they're trying to get it before Avon gets an offer of some sort. But that's pure speculation.
 
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