Camarda seeks input on new plan
The Journal News

MAHOPAC - A local developer who has tackled large senior-citizen housing complexes, retail shopping centers and luxury homes has a new project for Mahopac - and he is soliciting opinions from his prospective neighbors.

"I want to make residents part of the process," said Paul Camarda, whose offices overlook tranquil Lake Gleneida in the center of Carmel. He has brought plush housing subdivisions and senior-citizen complexes to Putnam during his tenure locally.

He presented the Carmel Town Board earlier this month with preliminary plans for a mix of retail, commercial space and apartment housing on 300 acres off Route 6 at Baldwin Place Road, near the Putnam-Westchester border.

"It is a union of a lot of different uses where Putnam meets Westchester," he said.

Plans show Union Place, its working name, as having small shops and a variety of retailers in a village-like core off a central roadway. That would be surrounded by rental apartments and business offices for professionals like architects, engineers and lawyers. Added components include adult recreation such as biking and hiking, restaurants and cafes, and possibly some for-sale townhouses.

There will be no single-family houses, said Camarda, emphasizing "there are enough in the town."

By the end of this week, he plans to mail a 12-question survey to Carmel property owners asking them what they would want to see on the site. He said he is ready for any and all comments, but will ask respondents to identify the type of retailer they would want - from an Ann Taylor or Talbots to a Williams-Sonoma or Apple computer store.

He also wants to find out what kind of eating establishments people favor and if a mix of specialty gourmet and coffee bars would be of interest. He explained that the mixture of retail, commercial, entertainment and housing units will space out the use of parking lots and roadways throughout the week and during varied time periods.

Nearby resident Kathy Lavezzo said she wants to know more about the project since Route 6 is already full of large stores, like an A&P supermarket, health clubs, a town senior-citizen center and senior-citizen housing.

She already has some some opinions and apprehensions about the large project.

"I wouldn't mind some of the retail and small stores, but I would be concerned about constant traffic," said the eight-year resident of Society Hill, a condominium complex that could become adjacent to Union Place.

Lavezzo said she would be against a movie theater or late-night activity that might draw teens to hang out in the evenings. She said she already hears nighttime noise from the A&P parking lot and would not want more.

Carmel Supervisor Ken Schmitt said the project would create jobs and provide a local destination for shoppers who have been heading to Westchester and Danbury, Conn.

"I am extremely thrilled. It will generate tremendous revenues for our town and the county," he said, and "take some burdens off taxpayers."

Camarda began purchasing land in southern Mahopac in 1996. After at least five acquisitions, and contracts in place to buy Mahopac Farm and the neighboring Mobil gas station close to Baldwin Place Road in the next two years, he will have at least 300 contiguous acres.

The property will be one of his largest sites. It will sit near Somers Commons, a major retail shopping center, and near a Somers project that also blends together retail with residential in a village concept, but has housing for older adults and large retailers.

"Everything will be built around a village core - the village will serve as the pulse of the project," said the outgoing developer, who seems to love juggling many projects. He said this one would cost "hundreds of millions of dollars" to build.

He has plans for two other centers outside Carmel - Patterson Crossing, a 374,000-square-foot retail center off Route 311 near Interstate 84 where Camarda wants to include a Lowe's home-improvement store and a Costco warehouse store, and Stateline Retail Center, a property on 50 acres near the Connecticut border, where he envisions a shopping hub with one anchor store, such as a Target or BJ's, and three smaller businesses. Both projects have generated local concerns. Nearly two years ago, he sold two parcels off Stoneleigh Avenue where more than 350 units of senior-citizen housing in The Retreat and Stoneleigh Woods are under construction.