Featured PieceGovernmentThe White Plains Examiner

Judge Sides With Westchester in Decision Over Merestead Property

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The mansion at Merestead in Bedford. A Westchester County judge ruled in favor of the county giving it greater latitude over the management of the property and its bequeathed funds to maintain the historic site.

A Westchester County judge has lifted many of the restrictions placed on the county related to its stewardship of Merestead, providing it with greater say and access to funds to maintain the property.

The roughly 130-acre on Byram Lake Road in Bedford was deeded to Westchester by Margaret Slaone Patterson upon her death in 2000.

Judge David Everett recently ruled that the county should have increased control over the property; releases most funds from trust accounts for the care and upkeep of Merestead; establishes a trust account for the remaining funds; enables the county to draw 5 percent of the trust fund money annually for ongoing maintenance and development projects; and introduces a collections management policy, providing a structured approach to managing Merestead’s valuable assets and the ability to sell the artwork and other valuable items.

When Westchester went to court about five years ago, there was about $4.3 million in two funds, which it wanted to use to help rehabilitate the structure.

Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins said Monday that the ruling is “a significant step” to not only free up more funds but give the county greater latitude for future uses and the resources to preserve the structures and the property.

“We have been working on this for a very, very long time to make sure that the people of Westchester have the balance of the investment and open park space as well as being able to maintain this property, and we certainly are going to do some things for the homeowner, Margaret Sloane Patterson’s vision, and we’re going to honor that vision, while ensuring that Merestead remains a vibrant cultural and recreation destination for the community,” Jenkins said.

When she died 24 years ago, Patterson’s will highlighted a series of restrictions, including preserving the property as it has been and prohibiting commercial uses. It was to be used as parkland and a museum.

The site features a 28-room mansion that was built in the early 20th century.

Patterson was the daughter of William Sloane, who was president of W&J Sloane, a furniture company based in New York City.

With the lifting of many of the restrictions and the release of most funds, the county can now concentrate on improving Merestead’s facilities and services and allowing it to continue to be accessible to the public.

“This decision signifies a significant step forward in our efforts to preserve and enhance Merestead for future generations,” County Executive George Latimer said.

Jenkins noted that the county intends to continuing investing resources into the property to make sure it is preserved in a manner that is consistent with its former owner’s wishes.

Jenkins applauded state Attorney General Letitia James for her office’s guidance in helping to bring the matter to a close.

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