Paul Savad, a developer from Nanuet who proposed a 42 home subdivision on New Turnpike Road in Cochecton, pulled the plug on the development last week. The development faced considerable local opposition from neighbors who argued that the plan would compromise the quiet solitude and rural character of the area.
The New Turnpike Road case raises important issues for development in Sullivan County, particularly the more rural western townships. Cochecton zoning permits one to two acre lots in certain areas, so Savad was not asking for a variance — just subdivision approval under current zoning regulations. Concerned citizens in Cochecton wanted to preserve the rural character of the area, and were particularly concerned about increased traffic on New Turnpike Road, which is a narrow local road. At the same time, though, one of the big complaints among property owners here is high property taxes, and the Savad development, when complete, would have added about $12 million to the tax rolls (and generated about $400,000 in annual property and school taxes.) Savad’s plan also called for more reasonably priced houses — about $250,000 — which is an underserved market niche here. (However, I doubt his plan for houses on small lots in a traditional subdivision layout would have had much appeal for the second home market, which is where the $250,000 demand is.)
This is also a classic case of the raw land cost squeeze that developers are facing here. The 108 acre parcel is on the market for $500,000, roughly $5,000 an acre. Figure half of the land is ‘developable’, given that Savad planned to develop that much (and leave the rest in green space.’ So you’ve got roughly 50 developable acres. Cut into 5 acre, rather than 1 acre lots, would yield 10 parcels — with a raw land cost of $50,000 per parcel. With development, carrying costs, sales expenses and profit, that would translate into a minimum ‘retail’ per parcel sales price of $150,000. And that puts you back into the upper end market that’s so slow right now.
Somehow we’ve got to figure out how we have our cake and eat it too.