ROSENDALE – The Town of Rosendale is one step closer to acquiring the historic Joppenberg Mountain parcel. The land is bounded by the Rosendale Theater parking lot and rises some 117 acres in steeply wooded cliffs and slopes to abut contiguously with the celebrated Rail Trail.
Property listing agent Edward O'Connor, of Kingston's O'Connor-Kershaw, has confirmed that an offer to purchase the legendary property by Open Space Institute (OSI) has been accepted by the sellers, Joppenberg Mountain Corporation, and now awaits only the signing of a formal contract.
OSI is an organization whose mission is the acquisition of property to preserve open space. In its efforts to obtain tracts and have them remain undeveloped and available for public enjoyment, OSI employs a variety of methods from outright purchase to establishment of conservation easements. It has already successfully brokered two other local deals that have enabled significant parcels of Rosendale realty to remain expansive, natural and pristine. Most recently, OSI worked with the Mohonk Preserve to secure those lands bordering Mountain Road in Rosendale. And earlier, in 2009, OSI partnered with the Wallkill Valley Land Trust to obtain title to 65 acres of the former Wallkill Rail Trail. OSI in turn awarded the rail trail and trestle to the Town of Rosendale.
Former Rosendale town councilman Brian Cafferty considers potential town acquisition of the Joppenberg Mountain lands a "one time opportunity."
Cafferty elaborated by presenting two arguments favoring town acquisition. Currently, the town leases the bottom of the mountain site from the Joppenberg Mountain Corporation for use as the municipal parking lot at an annual fee of $3,500. However, the ten-year lease between the Joppenberg Mountain Corporation and the Town of Rosendale is set to expire within the next 18 months, he said.
Cafferty recalled that he and other critics, at the time of its original signing, considered the 10-year lease with the Joppenberg Corporation too temporary a measure for a town parking problem that required "a more long term solution."
However, at that time, the shareholders of the Joppenberg Mountain Corporation were neither interested in selling the property in its entirety nor subdividing it to offer the town the desired parking piece at its nadir.
In the interim, however, while leasing the property, the Town of Rosendale has expended taxpayer monies improving the parcel and volunteers have equally spent time and energies constructing a band shelter and landscaping a park area using the historic old kilns, set inside the mountain's base outcroppings, as a natural backdrop.
Rosendale Town Supervisor Patrick McDonough stated that OSI approached him at the very end of 2010 with the possibility of acquiring the Joppenberg Mountain tract. OSI would purchase the property for $200,000 for the town and seek reimbursement of only half the purchase price from Rosendale. McDonough further states that he "informally floated the proposal to town board members and met with some hesitation."
OSI, apparently in recognition of initial council member concerns, reworked the initial offer. McDonough cautions that the whole process remains "fluid at this point."
But the current proposal foresees an $185,000 purchase price, with the Town of Rosendale having to reimburse $85,000 of that.
When the property initially went on the market in December 2009, the sellers had originally sought $500,000.
McDonough cites the ability to access the rail trail from the Joppenberg parcel as potentially an attractive selling point for town acquisition. The combined properties would offer a desirable venue, and eventually a destination, for people to embark on a wide array of activities related to hiking, biking, and climbing.
But McDonough cautions, at the same time, that any town purchase of Joppenberg remains an open question.
Previous attempts by previous administrations to purchase land with the goal of adding needed municipal parking have been unsuccessful. Most recently, in the Fall of 2001, town voters decisively defeated a referendum in which the town sought to obtain realty for this purpose, as well as providing a new location for a town hall, along the Main Street thoroughfare commonly referred to as the "Reid property."
And there have recently been some rumblings by at least one town board member about the wisdom of removing another property from the tax rolls.
Cafferty admitted that the current economic environment makes the expenditure by any municipality to acquire land a difficult undertaking, but he asks, "What's the option?"
He doesn't think the town can "just walk away from a permanent solution to the chronic town parking problem."
McDonough stressed that the proposal will ultimately require full and formal town board consideration. He anticipates that the March town board meeting agenda will include OSI's offer to secure Joppenberg Mountain for the town.