A New York municipality sold off its golf course — and got free play for first responders

Steve Lieberman, Westchester Journal News
·5 min read

A New York developer has bought the Patriot Hills Golf Course and the adjoining 26 acres for an estimated $15.4 million package that includes free golf for first responders in the community less than an hour north of New York City.

Under the contract signed by the Stony Point town board, the developer will spend up to $6.4 million to build a community center, $6 million to demolish or remove asbestos from eight buildings on the Letchworth property and pay $3 million to the town.

The sale comes after years of debate, and a petition drive and failed court fight by advocates, who wanted a public referendum on selling the 18-hole course. The advocates are appealing to the state Appellate Division.

For Supervisor Jim Monaghan, the deal amounts to a hole-in-one after years of trying to sell off a financial loser for the town. The town bought the property in 1999, three years after the state closed Letchworth Village in 1996. Stony Point owns 10 buildings with five in use.

The developer, Patriot Hills Park LLC, intends to invest in the remediation and redevelopment of the site of the former state institution as well as upgrades to the golf course, clubhouse and catering facilities.

The course was designed by Rick Jacobson, whose group has designed Potomac Shores, Bowes Creek Country Club and others. It opened in 2003.

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Champion Hills
Champion Hills

“This is an exciting day and big win for Stony Point,” Monaghan said during a news conference on the golf course. “As far back as 2003, the town has actively worked to market the old Letchworth facility and today’s agreement will finally ensure both the revitalization of this property and the enhancement of this beautiful golf course for benefit of our taxpayers.”

Councilman Tom Basile said the deal with Patriot Hills Park LLC will strengthen the town’s long-term fiscal health and keep town taxes down.

“This contract will, at long last, allow this site to generate income rather than be a drain on resources and do it while maintaining the character of this community,” Basile said.

The Town Board approved a memorandum of understanding in 2018 giving exclusive rights on a sale to two local residents, Raja R. Amar and Brion Hayman, and Lawrence D. Melchionda. The trio formed the Patriot Hills Park LLC for this development deal.

One of the long boarded up, decrepit buildings on the campus of Letchworth Village in Stony Point Sept. 21, 2018. Stony Point Supervisor Jim Monaghan gave an update on the status of plans to develop the site. The plans would include knocking down several of the boarded up buildings.

Value of transaction disputed

Attorney Michael Diederich, a Democrat running for town supervisor, who represents residents appealing a court ruling denying a public vote, said the public should have had a say on the sale of the valuable asset, the golf course. The petition had more than 500 signatures.

“Many people in the town, including myself, believe the Town Board of Stony Point was deeply misguided in deciding to sell the town’s golf course,” he said, adding the public should decide the use of public land.

“The proposed sale will essentially leave the Town with nothing — no cash in hand — and only the promises of a first-time developer,” he said. “In the long run, allowing private ownership may result in the golf course eventually becoming high-density housing.”

Monaghan has maintained the course is a money-loser for the town and the property has no worth due to the cost of removing asbestos from the buildings. He said the golf course also will eventually produce property taxes for the town.

The town chose to take the construction of a 7,500-square-foot community center and the multimillion renovation or disposal of eight asbestos-laden rundown buildings. The $3 million goes into town coffers.

Monaghan said the community center may not cost $6.4 million but maybe $5 million.

Either way, the developers agreed to fund the design and construction of a community center to replace the building, which is in constant need of repair. The community center will provide facilities for senior citizen functions, official town meetings and a range of other uses for youths and residents, Monaghan said.

“I, along with my partners, look forward to the success of this project and the exciting possibilities and economic growth that it will bring to Stony Point,” Amar said. “As a resident of Stony Point, I have a personal interest in investing in our future for the benefit of our community and its residents.”

Amar and his partners have been in negotiations with town officials for more than three years.

Monaghan said key elements of the contract include:

• $6.4 million due at closing encompassing both cash payment and performance bond for the design and construction of a new Stony Point Community Center.

• $6 million estimated commitment from the developer to remediate and demolish buildings on the Letchworth site.

• Renovations to and the preservation of Kirkbride Hall for Town recreation purposes.

• Golf course will remain accessible to town residents and their guests. Residents will pay a reduced rate on the average cost per round across golf courses in Rockland. Right now, town residents pay $55, and non-resident pay $120.

• Stony Point active riding volunteer fire department and ambulance corps members will play for free.

Steve Lieberman is a reporter for Westchester Journal News, part of the USA Today Network. Reach him at slieberm@lohud.com. Twitter: @lohudlegal.