Camarda sells land in Carmel to builder
Under $30M deal, senior citizen homes planned on 96 acres
The Journal News
June 24, 2006

Developer Paul Camarda has sold 96 acres of his Carmel Centre property to one of the country's largest home builders for nearly $30 million.

The property is off Stoneleigh Avenue and has town approvals for more than 300 units of senior citizen housing.

The new owner, Pulte Homes Inc., says it bought the site because it had a ready-to-go design. The company plans to proceed with Camarda's vision of a campus with a variety of two-bedroom homes and recreation facilities for active adults older than 55 years old.

"Putnam County is a new destination point. It is beautiful, and I can see why," said Jim Mullen, development approval manager for Pulte Homes' Bernardsville, NJ, office. "Senior housing is very popular. People want to stay nearby in communities they have lived in or move closer to their families."

Camarda persevered in developing the site behind the A&P Shopping Center and Watson Laboratories for more than a decade. He sold the land to Pulte on May 12.

He first proposed an office complex known as Carmel Corporate Centre, then moved on to consider a large retail project, dropping "corporate" from the project name.

With a new town code allowing multifamily housing, he shifted gears and designed a plan for upscale townhouses with a clubhouse, tennis courts, swimming pool and 3-hole pitch-and-putt golf area. He worked on the plans for seven years and in 1998 purchased the land for $1.5 million.

He split off Stoneleigh Woods - about 9 acres with town approvals for 68 senior-citizen units - and sold it to Blue and Gold Development of Riverhead, Long Island, for $3.1 million on April 3.

During the approval process, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection sued Camarda, demanding additional environmental reviews. Another group took the town to court, saying natural resources should be studied further, but the courts upheld the Planning Board's review. With legal issues out of the way, Camarda hired Brennan Construction of Carmel to build an access road, Terrace Drive, from Stoneleigh Avenue and lay the groundwork for utilities and town water and sewer lines.

"I see my job as a developer to bring in other companies to become part of my developments," Camarda said."Pulte shared the same vision for the property that I had. They are preeminent builders of senior housing, and this will be a win-win for Putnam County." He says he will stay active in the process if Pulte needs him and that a project of this size undoubtedly will mean work for many local businesses.

Pulte Homes is a 56-year-old building company based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., with offices in 27 states. Last year, the company built 45,630 homes in the U.S. and had revenues of $14.7 billion.

Christopher Burtt's home for more than 30 years borders the property. He said he wasn't surprised by the sale but is concerned how the complex will look.

"I am encouraged that most of it went to one buyer," he said, meaning it would have a unified appearance. Plans for housing, he said, appeal to him more than ones for a commercial or industrial use.

"Really, I have no control over someone else's property. They have rights and all I can do is moan and groan. But in the end, I hope the details Camarda described to the residents will really happen."

As far as Dawn Onufrik, 45, is concerned, the main issue is that the town must keep an eye on the project.

"I hope proper procedures are followed," she said, noting that any changes in the approved plans must be reviewed again by town boards. "I'm not sure we need and can handle all this senior housing, but it is not my land, and it is their prerogative to build. Just do it right is all I have to say."

Camarda has developer other sites in Putnam using a similar model of preparing design plans and then bringing in a builder for the construction phase. He worked with Wyndham Homes on a 71-lot subdivision, Willow Ridge.

Elsewhere in Putnam, Camarda has proposed retail centers in Patterson and Southeast, and on Route 6 in Carmel, a hotel-conference center with adjacent senior-citizen housing units.