Saving Open Space
The Journal News
December 21, 2006

With a recent mailing to homes throughout Putnam and northern Westchester, developer Paul Camarda may have gotten more attention than he bargained for.

The mailing, an oversized postcard, implies that to save open space, you have to build a strip mall. A funny thought, that. It oddly echoes the claim of Vietnam War defenders that a village had to be destroyed in order to save it.

"Stateline tax revenue will pay for $5 million Open Space loan," the flyer reads, referring to an open-space bond approved by Town of Southeast voters in November. The flyer goes on to list the sales and property tax benefits to Southeast that Camarda says will come from turning his 50 acres of undeveloped open space along Route 6 into a 185,000-square-foot center with a big-box store, four smaller stores and acres of parking. New town revenue will help pay off the $5 million being used to preserve open space elsewhere in town, the reasoning apparently goes.

Camarda is one of the biggest developers in Putnam County. In addition to the Stateline Retail Center, which is under review in Southeast, he has several other projects in the works. Another Camarda retail development: the controversial Patterson Crossing, a 439,000-square-foot proposal on Route 311 in Patterson. In addition, he is in various stages of work on several residential projects in Carmel. The Gateway Summit, a senior citizen complex with hotel, restaurant and retail facilities is in planning states, as is another 150-unit senior complex adjacent to the Centennial golf course. Already approved: 381 units of senior housing for a site on Stoneleigh Avenue.

With a resume like that, skeptics might not exactly consider Camarda a proponent of land preservation. Be that as it may, property taxes are a serious issue in Putnam County. One way to reduce them is to increase revenue through commercial development. Stateline Retail Center would sit on an underutilized stretch of a four-lane road a mile from the Danbury, Conn., border - where, as it is, stores already line both sides of Route 6 and draw shoppers, and sales-tax revenue, from across Putnam County. Considering the alternatives, is the Camarda site such a bad choice for Southeast and Putnam?

The retail center just might even lure shoppers from Connecticut so New York, and Putnam, could for once get a shot at their tax dollars.