The parcel in question includes three farms and six buildings -- all accessed by either Lenape Lane or Pine Road, as well as the historic testimonial gatehouse on Gatehouse Road.
New Paltz has had strong community support to preserve green pastures and forests as open space. Anderberg said that the land conservation plan would be a good thing and in keeping with the college town’s stated goal of preserving pretty views along the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge.
Glenn Hoagland, the executive director of Mohonk Preserve, felt good about the Planning Board’s approval of the lot split. “We’re really excited about this whole transaction,” Hoagland said.
For a point of clarity, Mohonk Mountain House resort and the Mohonk Preserve are two different entities. The Mountain House, the commercial side of things, pays taxes. The Mohonk Preserve is a nonprofit nature preserve. The land deal with OSI involves both of the Mohonk entities, since the land trust could eventually swap the old hotel acreage to the Preserve.
“Mohonk Preserve, as the interim manager and anticipated future landowner, will assume maintenance and oversight responsibility for the land and structures on Lot 2,” reads an environmental report written by Highland-based Brooks & Brooks -- a consultant for OSI and Mohonk.
For people who are familiar with the parcel from hikes in the mountains, not much will change even though the land trust now owns the land.
“Although there is currently no general public access promoted on this property, Smiley Brothers Inc. has historically permitted Mohonk Preserve members and day pass holders to utilize these lands,” that report states. “This policy will remain in effect until such time as a new management plan is developed.”
That move has raised some skepticism from cash-strapped and tax-weary neighbors, but a lot of details about how and if the land will be taxed remains up in the air. For instance, to get a tax exemption, the land trust needs to apply to the Town of New Paltz and prove their case. That application process doesn’t happen again until next year.
“OSI understands that taking land off the tax rolls has implications,” Anderberg said. “We’re committed to sitting down with the New Paltz Town Board and the assessor.”
When that meeting does happen, all the players -- the town, Mohonk Preserve and OSI -- will have to sit down and hash out a payment-in-lieu-of taxes agreement.
Even after giving the 874 acres to the Open Space Institute, Mohonk Mountain House isn’t hurting for land -- they’ll keep more than 1,361 acres. Only 505 acres of that remaining hotel land falls under the jurisdiction of New Paltz, however.
Also outside of the control of New Paltz town government is the roughly 18 acres of the 874-acre lot that falls within the Town of Rochester.
According to the town assessor, the 856-acre parcel that falls inside New Paltz has an assessed value of about $2.9 million. The other 505 acres in New Paltz is assessed at $1.02 million.
If all of the new lot is taken off the tax rolls, then that would mean people would pay a bit more in taxes -- $0.06 more per $1,000 of assessed value on their home. For a $250,000 home, that would equate to a $15-per-year increase.
During a public hearing earlier this week, neighbors along Butterville Road said they wanted an assurance that the two lots couldn’t be subdivided again and sold off to a developer.
Patricia Brooks, a consultant for OSI and Mohonk, said she couldn’t make that promise since the land trust might want to deed off the 856 acres in phases to Mohonk Preserve. That maneuver would require further subdivision.
“We are committing to the conservation easement and the restrictions on it,” Brooks added. For the uninitiated, a conservation easement is a legal agreement forbidding the land to be sold as homes or developed.
Planning Board Chairman Mike Calimano also tried to calm neighbors, saying that further subdivision will have to come before the board and will have to go through the same process with full disclosure.
“It’ll have to go through all of the same processes it did for this one -- even if they want to cut off a 28-acre parcel,” Calimano said. “But you would know about it, if they ever proposed to do anything -- any subdivision of that land.”
OSI has yet to officially close with Mohonk Mountain House on the deal, but with this key win it could happen soon.