County weighs $350K for housing

In this September 2018 file photo, the 6th annual Cruisin’ on the Mountaintop car show is about to begin on Main Street in Tannersville.

CATSKILL — The Greene County Legislature is weighing a proposal to spend $350,000 to fund affordable workforce funding in the Village of Tannersville for employees of the region’s ski resorts.

If approved by the legislature, the money would be taken from the $4.5 million in funding the county has received so far from the federal government as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. The county expects to eventually receive $9.1 million from the government as part of that federal legislation, according to Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger.

A resolution was on the table for the board to approve the funding during a County Services Committee meeting on Monday night, but the motion was tabled until a special meeting on Nov. 15 after legislators Patty Handel, R-Durham, and Matthew Luvera, R-Catskill, asked for more information on the proposal.

As part of the proposal, the Hunter Foundation requested that the county contribute $350,000 in funding to assist with planning, development and acquisition costs related to workforce housing project.

The Hunter Foundation has partnered with the nonprofit RUPCO organization to craft a proposed development of 80 units of one-to-three-bedroom housing in Tannersville.

The entire project has an estimated cost of at least $20 million, according to RUPCO CEO Kevin O’Connor. The developers have identified several sites under consideration for the project, which he said could be shovel-ready by June 2023.

The cost of the development would be funded through a combination of federal, state and Hunter Foundation money, with the non-profit RUPCO organization managing the properties.

If the project is ultimately not selected to receive the needed state and federal funding and the project falls apart, the county would not be required to contribute the $350,000, if that sum is eventually approved by the legislature.

Hunter Town Supervisor Sean Mahoney asked the board to approve the funding at Monday’s session.

“I think it’s important to note how this is structured,” he told the board. “This is not us asking Greene County to write a check right now. This is asking Greene County to commit $350,000 to be utilized at a time later when that money is needed. So theoretically it’s not like $350,000 suddenly goes away. This is for saying ‘Hey Greene County, we need $40,000 for X.’ Please cut the check then. This is not just write the check and see it fly away.”

The prevalence of rental homes in the mountaintop has also shrunk the amount of housing available to prospective homeowners or renters.

“The Airbnbs have been progressively increasing up there, which is taking away the housing stock that’s available,” Linger said following the meeting. “But certainly since the pandemic started it’s at a crisis level.”

Legislator Larry Gardner, D-Hunter, said he was in favor of approving the funds immediately, and Legislator Harry Lennon, D-Cairo, also voiced his willingness to pass the resolution.

“The situation is dire now,” Gardner said. “We have a terrible lack of supply of housing. This is not the norm, it’s a huge aberration. This isn’t some market force where housing is a little bit too high and too expensive on the mountaintop. This housing that we need for the business community and the community as a whole doesn’t exist.”

Representatives of Hunter Mountain, Belleayre Mountain and Windham Mountain all spoke at the meeting in favor of building the housing to accommodate their employees.

“This is a major problem,” Hunter Mountain President Russell Coloton said. “We’re all dealing with employee shortages. We as a large corporation now are out recruiting people from all across the country and the No. 1 need that we have is that there is no space to put these people.”

Coloton added that his company recently offered positions to three prospective hires that eventually turned down the jobs because they couldn’t find affordable housing within driving distance of the resort.

Later, Legislator Michael Bulich, R-Catskill, voiced skepticism about funding the project.

“Our state income taxes are going to fund this, you’ve got federal taxes that are going to fund some of this, where does it end?” he said. “The labor situation will not go away just because we have some housing.”

Bulich added that the responsibility of providing the housing should be on the business owners.

Scribner’s Catskill Lodge owner Marc Chodock said his resort provides housing for some employees but was out of options for acquiring more property beyond ousting current homeowners.

“It’s gotten to the point right now where you’re saying I can basically kick out existing dwellers,” Chodock said. “Do you want me to do that? Where are they going to live? Where’s my soul? Are you telling me that I have to go out and build new housing? I’m not in that business.”

Handel said she was not comfortable voting on the resolution.

“I feel like this is a very large ask, $350,000,” she said during the meeting. “I know if I have to vote right now, tonight, I haven’t gotten enough information prior to this coming up in the resolution. If I had to vote tonight, I’d say no. It’s a lot to ask right now without us getting more information before this meeting.”

Luvera agreed the Legislature needed more information on the proposal before he would be comfortable voting on the resolution, which Mahoney said he would provide before the Nov. 15 meeting.

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(2) comments

Riverdweller

One arm of local government wants to elevate the tourism sector yet there is resistance to creating workforce housing to aid that sector. Look at any major tourist region in the country and you’ll find housing at the top of the list of challenges. This is not news. The raw material to support tourism is labor. Much of the tourism workforce doesn’t make huge money but they still need housing. Build some multi unit housing with dormitory design aspects and recruit young foreign workers like other regions do. Groups of young foreign workers can live in more densely packed housing in order to have the experience. You can’t solve the labor shortage in tourism by counting on Greene County young people. Don’t bother. Legislators: Don’t let the perfect be an impediment to the good. Support the tourism sector strategically.

scottmyers

The $9.1 million federal rescue money slated for Greene County has no limits. Greene County can spend it on any project they want, except they can't pay off existing loans (like the obscene $90 million new jail debt obligation). As anyone knows, tourism and COVID-19 are mutually incompatible. Greene County is doing a terrible job with this pandemic. Barely half of our adults are vaccinated. Mr. Lubera, a fourth-grade teacher and head of the Republican Party, recently introduced a bill to "ignore COVID-19 and simply go about business as usual. Dr. Robert Schneider promptly delivered a letter saying this was highly inappropriate. Lubera withdrew his bill.

A look at census data shows that the Village of Hunter, the Village of Cairo, and the Village of Catskill are extremely poor. Yet, the county administrators and legislators fail to reverse these issues. Central Hudson's Out Of Alignment determined that we have a declining per capita and population.

It's sad to see this level of indifference, which quickly reaches the definition of incompetence. The County lacks a hospital but is invested in a jail. The adjoining county jails are 85% empty.

This is a pathetic misdirection of our scant resources. But, then, to see resistance for actually beneficial programs seems callous at best. Pathetic.

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