SULLIVAN COUNTY –– Shovel ready sites, project pre-approvals and ratables are always on the mind of the staff and board of directors at the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic …
SULLIVAN COUNTY –– Shovel ready sites, project pre-approvals and ratables are always on the mind of the staff and board of directors at the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development.
Stakeholders from various industries and community organizations, as well as local and elected officials packed into the Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark on Thursday morning for the Partnership’s second Economic Development Summit, picking right up from where they left off last spring, with discussion on the project process and best practices to work towards getting them approved.
Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development President/CEO Marc Baez moderated the summit, whose speakers included County Manager Josh Potosek, Dan Depew (Holt Construction), Anthony Morando (Cuddy + Feder), Mary Beth Bianconi (Delaware Engineering), John Lavelle (Rand Commercial), Chris Monello (Foster Supply Hospitality/Western Sullivan Properties), Eon Nichols (Cuddy + Feder), Town of Thompson Supervisor Bill Rieber and Joe Sayre (NYSEG).
Some of the morning’s takeaways were the importance of consistency and having a process when developers approach a Town/Village with a potential project, zoning, the benefits Industrial Development Agencies offer, making sure town, planning and zoning boards know their roles and the Town code, the key role land use attorneys play in moving the process along, as well as planning ahead (i.e. knowing that transformers and/or other materials take several months to arrive).
The Town of Thompson has been at the center of a lot of recent economic development in Sullivan County, which includes being the home of Resorts World Catskills casino and the Kartrite. Rieber discussed some of the steps the Town has taken in regard to economic development, including how they’ve worked to improve the process for all parties involved.
Rieber, speaking to those two projects and future golf course, said they started in the woods.
“What got it here was electric –– rebuilding two substations on either side of this project to get the power here –– and running eight miles of sewer and water lines through the woods to cover all these buildings,” said Rieber. “So that was my trial by fire walking into the door nine years ago, which actually started with the siting process to get the casino approved … In the end, I think it’s really transformed Sullivan County in a major way. It was a catalyst.”
Rieber said the Town decided to upscale their development process, doing a study of their infrastructure and rating them so they knew what they had to do moving forward. When grants funds became available, they quickly got applications out and have secured over $35 million for sewer and some water improvements.
They also hired more staff in their building department where they had two employees and a secretary. Today they have a director of planning, zoning and development, four certified inspectors and two administrative staff.
Thompson has also utilized Google Drive, streamlining all documents for a project from start to finish and making sure they are available to all parties, as well as the public, in a convenient space.
“Bottom line, I think the public, the developers … they have a right to transparency,” said Rieber. “The only bad decision you can make is no decision at all. So you get through the process and make a decision. If you’re the public and you don’t like something you have redress, there’s Article 78 proceedings and if you’re the applicant and there’s no complaints and the job is done right, you’re going to put a shovel in the ground.”
Depew, who spent some time in Sullivan as Deputy County Manager, referenced the need to update utility infrastructure and benefits of IDAs.
He also encouraged the County to consider paying for a Census update in the next couple of years, alluding to the increase in residents who decided to make the area their permanent home during the pandemic.
“When federal and state dollars are being spent in communities across the State of New York, they look at what your true census numbers are,” said Depew. “Where I agree that people are moving out of New York State, there is a growth uptick greater than the Census reflects in Sullivan County.”
Closing out the summit, Baez said that communities that aren’t growing are dying.
“I can tell you 100 percent that Sullivan County is growing,” said Baez. “We’re open for business. The reason why all these people are here, we’re touching on this subject, is to let you know that we are looking at every facet of development in Sullivan County, proving our ability to address [them] and continuing to grow. I’m excited about our future.”
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