Sullivan legislature nixes visitor’s center land deal

By FRITZ MAYER
Posted 1/17/20

MONTICELLO, NY —The proposed purchase of a plot of land in Rock Hill was a high-profile issue in the 2019 elections and the Sullivan County Legislature voted to kill the deal at the …

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Sullivan legislature nixes visitor’s center land deal

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MONTICELLO, NY —The proposed purchase of a plot of land in Rock Hill was a high-profile issue in the 2019 elections and the Sullivan County Legislature voted to kill the deal at the legislature’s executive committee meeting on January 16.

Legislator Ira Steingart was one of the first people to speak on the topic, but not before letting newly-elected county chair Rob Doherty know that he was unhappy with some of Doherty’s decisions.

Steingart said, “I’m the first legislator in the history of the legislature form of government of the county … not to chair one of the committees. First time it happened. Rob, I’m sure you were sending me a message. I’m not a slow learner, I get it.”

Doherty interjected, “No message.”

Steingart then expressed disappointment at being removed as chair from the community and economic development committee. He then turned to the proposed visitor’s center and the Sullivan County Visitors Association, and the resolution to rescind the previous legislature’s decision to move forward with the purchase of the land in Rock Hill.

“I think anybody who votes on this today, and didn’t sit with the SCVA … to find out what their needs are … you may not truly understand what this is all about.” He said the previous legislature did a bad job of explaining the project to the public. “It was never going to be $4.5 million; they need a place; we need to greet people coming in….”

Steingart said SCVA brings in over $500 million in tourism revenue to Sullivan County, with over $30 million in sales tax.”

Doherty noted that the resolution being considered would only rescind the purchase of the Rock Hill property, which “was valued at $80,000 and being sold for over $400,000.”

Rick Lander, a board member of SCVA, spoke about the Rock Hill property. “To be perfectly honest, at this point that property is a moot point because our timeframe ran out.We’re at the point of getting our deposit back because we knew we couldn’t move fast enough. But remember, this started from the last legislature that wanted a visitor’s center, so we searched.This is our third location and we finally found a location. So really, this property is not going to be it.”

He reminded the legislature that SCVA is made up of 503 members, who own and operate businesses in Sullivan County. He said SCVA had signed a three-year lease for a larger space in a building near the SCVA’s current location in Liberty.

Returning to the question of the proposed visitor’s center, Doherty said, “the New York State Constitution … says that you’re not allowed to build a building for a vendor. That’s a fact, that’s what we’re essentially doing. We’re moving on from the property. We’re not moving on from SCVA.We’re going to go to their board meeting and have these discussions.” 

Legislator Alan Sorensen said he was voting to stop the land purchase. “Having just gone through an election, I got the message loud and clear from many of my constituents. Some reluctantly voted for me, but let me know that they were very upset with the purchase of that property… and at the end of the day, I represent my constituents.”

The vote to stop the purchase was seven to one, with Steingart voting in opposition.

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