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Big turnout for Joppenberg hearing

The Rosendale Recreation Center was filled to capacity on April 6th, for the public hearing on Rosendale’s proposed purchase of Joppenberg Mountain. The 495-foot peak looms over the downtown business district as a local landmark, sitting upon 117 acres of undeveloped forest and waste, wrapping around the north side of Main Street from the trestle to the theater parking lot.

A ten-year lease which took effect in July 2004 allows the town to use portions of the property for overflow parking and a small picnic area with band shell. The Joppenburg Mountain Corporation, as landlord, receives $3500 annual rent from Rosendale, “plus the cost of any increase in real property taxes.”

According to town supervisor Patrick McDonough, the taxes for Joppenberg went up by roughly $5,000 per year starting in 2010. Deputy supervisor Jen Metzger indicated that the original tax revenues to the town, before increases, only amount to $1475 per year. Thus the net cost to the town is currently about $7,000 annually under terms of this lease.

The not-for-profit Open Space Institute has proposed purchasing the mountain for $185,000 — then selling it back to the town for $85,000. The difference in those amounts shall be paid for with outside funding secured by OSI. “There are to be [additional] costs associated with fencing,” Metzger noted, along with other improvements to the land related around safety hazards.

OSI vice president and general council Robert K. Anderberg said the OSI purchase would happen later this summer, but only if the town board agrees to buy the property back from OSI. “We [OSI] are buying [Joppenberg] soley to convey it to the town of Rosendale, we do not have any desire to own it ourselves.”

“We think this is a unique opportunity for the town, however it’s up for the town and its residents to determine what’s in its best interests,” Anderberg observed. “Of all the towns that OSI works in — and we work in over 50 towns in the State of New York — in my view Rosendale is one of the most varied and beautiful,” he said.

Despite the vocal majority who spoke in favor of Rosendale’s purchase, there was also a handful of hard-hitting opponents making points against the idea. Brett Hansen stated he had made offers to buy the mountain for purposes of building a commercial musical event amphitheater, which would keep Joppenberg on the tax rolls. The land currently leased at the bottom of the hill for picnics would be donated to Rosendale, Hansen promised. “It will spur commerce, and all the businesses would benefit,” Hansen said.

“I’m not one of your open space people,” complained old-time resident Patrick Jordan. “No one has mentioned how we’re gonna pay for this. I don’t want to hear any bond issues, because all you people will be gone before the bonds ever get paid off.”

Supervisor McDonough countered, “there is money in the town surplus, from a sale of property last year to the Open Space Institute,” amounting to $340K, “there is still some of that left.” Town councilman Ken Hassett recollected that use of the $340K from last year’s land sale were earmarked for required infrastructure expenses — not open space.

Middle ground was expressed by numerous residents who wished the matter be brought before a public referendum. Time constraints imposed by OSI’s funding sources and Joppenberg’s owners preclude a public vote. McDonough replied, “This sort of had a referendum last November. There was a town board who was elected to do the will of the people. New York State law says it is the purview of the town to decide how to spend that money, I’m perfectly happy to exercise that responsibility.”

The public hearing was adjourned for another week pending written comments. The board is expected to decide the matter at the April 13th meeting.

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