Friday, September 14, 2018

Chester buying property ‘to keep the Hasidic out’ 

The Town of Chester has finalized a contract to purchase the Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center for $1 million, part of a sweeping effort to buy up as much open land in the town as possible to keep unwanted future Hasidic development in check.

The contract was approved at a Town Board meeting Wednesday night. The 8.8-acre property was appraised at $1.8 million, according to Chester Supervisor Alex Jamieson. It was a good deal for the town, he said.

Jamieson characterized the purchase as one of several to be finalized in the coming weeks and months that are meant to slow the expansion of the Hasidic community outside of Kiryas Joel.

"People realize what the possibilities are. The fear of KJ expanding into Chester is scaring people half to death," Jamieson said Thursday. "It's not just the Greens at Chester. They are buying property all around it."

Earlier this year, Chester residents learned that Greens at Chester, the 431-home development being built on a 110-acre site west of the Whispering Hills subdivision, would be a predominantly Hasidic community and could eventually be home to 3,000 people.

The news brought hundreds of people to a Town Board meeting, where they urged elected officials to stop the development. At the time, Jamieson told the public the town would explore instituting a ward system for electing Town Board members and adopting an open-space preservation program.

"We made a promise to the people to preserve as much of the town as possible," Jamieson said. "This is just the first phase."

In addition to the Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center purchase, the town is also finalizing a contract to buy a 26-acre property on Route 94 in Chester where Primo Sports originally planned to build a sports complex. The Town Board expects to vote on that purchase at its next meeting, Jamieson said.

At this point, the town has not decided what it will do with the performing arts center. Jamieson said the town could rent it back to the Mid-Hudson Civic Center, the current owner, and let it continue operations. The town will look into building a community pool and running track on the Route 94 property, he said.

The town is also finalizing a contract to buy two parcels of land outside Sugar Loaf totaling 160 acres. The land is owned by the Laroe family foundation and will cost the town $1.3 million.


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