The Wilmorite Fight

Cartoon by Mike Sheinkopf.

The New York State Supreme Court of Ulster County ruled in favor of the New Paltz Town Planning Board last month in a lawsuit from Wilmorite Inc., the real estate developer behind the proposed Park Point off-campus housing complex for SUNY New Paltz students and faculty.

The board had voted against the plan and stated that the project would have been approved under the condition that it would not be subject to the Category 5 Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) that the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency  (IDA) had approved for the project last April.

The PILOT would have Wilmorite to collectively pay $522,000 to the town, county and school district for the first 25 years of the housing complex’s operative life instead of the annual tax payments matching up to the project’s $53.4 million tax assessment.

We at The New Paltz Oracle are pleased to hear of this legal ruling and commend the town’s planning board for defending its residents. Under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), the planning board is obligated to take responsibiliy in determing possible fiscal impacts that projects such as Park Point will have on the community.

We believe that although the planning board does not have the right to dictate the IDA’s tax break deciscions, they definitely have the right to disagree with the IDA. This is justified since the planning board found that the tax break would negatively impact the municiplaties of the town — including its police and fire departments.

Wilmorite’s reasoning in filing an Article 78 lawsuit against the planning board was that they found their opposition of the plan to be “arbitrary, capricious, irractional, illegal and an abuse of discretion,” according to the Decision and Order statements released by the Ulster County Supreme Court.

We feel that this lawsuit was both unnecesary and served as yet another stalemate in the already long-drawn process. Although the lawsuit has now been settled, we can assume that it is still going to be difficult for all parties involved not to hold grudges moving forward after the fact.

For the past few years, public figures and the planning company, Wilmorite, have made a spectacle of themselves due to their long-running disagreements on what they believe to be best for both the New Paltz community and the students of the college. This issue has unfolded and has unsurprisinglyresurfaced again since it is very complex with many stakeholders involved — including our college campus.

At SUNY New Paltz, it is apparent that we have a need for more housing since many first-year students are required to live in “triples” — three students to a dorm room that is only made for two people to live in. Though we understand that the opening of a new residence hall on campus this fall will alleviate some of the need for housing on campus, we do not think it will  entirely fix the ongoing demand for housing.

Moving forward, we at The Oracle hope that the planning board and Wilmorite will recover from any tension caused from this lawsuit and facilitate a healthy working relationship with each other if they plan to make any progress.

As suggested by New Paltz Town Supervisor Susan Zimet, we also believe that a joint meeting is due between the planning board, Wilmorite and officials from the college to determine how each stakeholder in this project can work toward the goal of meeting both the needs of the town’s taxpayers and of our college community.

In addition to this,  we at The Oracle hope to see the college working in conjunction with the planning board to find a solution to this limited housing situation.

Editorials represent the views of the majority of the editorial board. Columns, op-eds and letters, excluding editorials, are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The New Paltz Oracle, its staff members, the campus and university or the Town or Village of New Paltz.