The Putnam Examiner

Public Hearing Held for PV Bond Vote Next Month

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After a controversial bond to build a recreation center was shot down in Putnam Valley last year, residents seemed by and large more supportive of purchasing an existing recreation facility that will go to a vote next month.

The town is holding a referendum on Election Day where voters will decide whether to purchase the John C. Mara campground off Peekskill Hollow Road for about $2.1 million. This recreational bond comes on the heels of the town board failing to get voter approval last year for a new rec. center that would’ve been twice the cost. The 161 acres of land is owned by Archdiocese of New York and used by the town every summer for camp.

Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Committee Phil Keating said taxes would remain the same for town residents following the purchase of the property because the past expenses due to annual rent on that property would be less overall than the bond payments. But Keating noted that one part-time worker might be hired in the spring to maintain the campus. He also pointed out the pool on the property will “never” be used as a municipal pool, but it could be used on evenings in the fall and spring when camp isn’t in session.

Keating said the town plans on using the narrow access road how it exists in its current form. There aren’t plans to create a road go through Marsh Hill Road or put another town road up toward the camp, he said.

“If we don’t buy it, yes there is a chance it could be sold to a developer,” Keating said. “Yes, there is a chance it could be put on the market.”

Parks and recreation department head Frank DiMarco said it has come to a point where renting the property doesn’t make sense anymore. He said that for organized activities, participants could be bused up to the campgrounds so traffic wouldn’t be much heavier than it is now.

“We do just want to maintain the camp,” DiMarco said. “People depend on it.”

During the hearing, most residents were supportive or neutral toward the bond, with only one real naysayer voicing her opinion.

Resident Kenny Sills, who supported it, noted that if the property is sold to another entity, the town could lose that land as a camp property, leaving officials searching for another facility in town. He also asked about using the pool during the summer on weekends. DiMarco said the town would need a shuttle to bring people up to the pool if enough residents were interested.

While resident Patty Villanova commended town officials for the information they’ve provided, she still blasted the plan. She said she was originally concerned a developer could build homes there if the town didn’t buy the land, but finds that possibility unlikely. Supervisor Sam Oliverio and Villanova then squabbled over the potential the land could be sold to a developer, with Oliverio believing it could happen if the bond vote failed.

“We don’t know which way the wind will blow,” Oliverio said.

Villanova feared that more costs associated with the camp, especially to upgrade existing buildings on the property, would continue to be an expense for taxpayers. Oliverio rebutted that the buildings were in good conditions.

Oliverio has been a champion for the proposed purchase, as has other town board members.

Councilwoman Wendy Whetsel said the town is focused on keeping the land so it can continue to have a camp there every summer. She called the property a “wonderful asset.” Whetsel said when the parks and recreation department needs additional funding, DiMarco finds a way to get it to pay for itself.

Councilwoman Jackie Annabi said the property is a good investment.

“There’s so much potential in this camp,” Annabi said. “What we’re buying is potential for our town, we’re buying into our town.”

“It adds value to our town,” Councilman Louie Luongo said

Philipstown Councilwoman Nancy Montgomery, a Democrat who is running for the legislative 1 seat that represents part of Putnam Valley, called buying the property a great opportunity to enhance the recreational amentias in the town. Philipstown took a similar action years ago that proved to be a wise endeavor, Montgomery said.

“It has brought our community together,” Montgomery said. “This is what makes communities.”

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