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Smallwood Golf Course now in hands of county

By Dan Hust
SMALLWOOD — May 4, 2010 — The former Smallwood Golf Course – recently the focus of an intense legal battle – is now owned by Sullivan County.
County Treasurer Ira Cohen told legislators on Thursday that the county had taken title to the nearly-200-acre property after owner Upstate Land and Properties failed to keep current on its property taxes.
According to Deputy Treasurer Nancy Buck, Upstate Land did not pay its 2008, 2009 or 2010 county, town or school taxes on the two parcels comprising the golf course, amounting to more than $35,000.
She said Upstate Land reps made some inquiries as the foreclosure and repayment deadlines neared but ultimately took no action.
“They did not take advantage of the repurchase program,” Cohen added, which ended April 20.
Buck said Upstate Land could choose to litigate the matter, but the county has not received notice of such yet.
The foreclosure caught Bethel Supervisor Dan Sturm by surprise, as he had just announced two weeks prior that the township had won “round one” of an expected multi-round litigation fight with Upstate Land.
The developer behind Upstate Land, Robert Van Zandt, had sued Bethel and its town board, claiming new zoning restrictions on his property would unfairly and illegally prevent him from building a 200-unit housing development at the golf course.
But a state Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of the town. Van Zandt’s attorney, Elizabeth Cassidy of the firm Jacobowitz and Gubits, said at the time that they would appeal if Upstate Land wished to do so. She could not be reached for comment at press time yesterday.
In the meantime, Cohen said the property is now headed for the county tax auction this summer.
“The town has expressed some interest in this,” he told legislators.
Sturm confirmed that, but right now he’s taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I would say it would be premature to speculate” on the town’s intentions, he said yesterday.
He wouldn’t rule out acquiring the land – “something that’s good for the Town of Bethel at a reasonable cost” – but he was adamant that “we do not want to get into any further litigation with Upstate Land.”
So until Sturm is sure Upstate Land is no longer interested in the property, he indicated Bethel will simply keep a close eye on it.
“The town is extremely concerned about that property,” he remarked, noting its wetlands and their sensitive ecology. “And the aquifer for the well for the Smallwood community is on that property.”

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