Village of Red Hook considering purchase of municipal lot

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Red Hook village officials are currently negotiating to buy the sole municipal parking lot in the village, which is owned by Key Bank.

The village has rented the lot from Key Bank since the late 1970s at a rate of $1 per year. And while that sounds like a good deal, Mayor Ed Blundell told The Observer there are good reasons for the village to consider purchasing the property, which is on Prince Street across from Village Hall and adjacent to the bank’s own parking lot.

One issue, he said, is that the lease is year-to-year and could be broken at any time by either party. “Then we wouldn’t have a municipal parking lot, which we’re not comfortable with. We’re looking to secure it for posterity,” he added.

The question, Blundell said, is how to pay for it. He refused to discuss a possible price tag because he said the village and bank are still in negotiations. “It’s not monstrously expensive, but in this age of 2 percent tax caps, [such a purchase] does become problematic,” he said.

Along with the parking lot, Key Bank also is selling the “green lot” between the bank and the Mobil station, which has a large evergreen tree that the village lights up each year during the winter holiday season. According to Blundell, any purchase has to include both properties.

He said he could envision what he called “a pocket park” in the space, with places to sit in the shade and possibly some fencing so children could play there safely.

The village board budgeted $2,000 in the 2013-14 budget for the necessary studies to investigate the “green lot.” They have contracted with a firm that provides topographical maps, soil maps, and data from spill databases, so the village can understand the history of the parcel before purchase.

“A study like this needs to be done, it provides people from buying some kind of environmental hazard that they then need to clean up,” Trustee Jay Trapp, who is leading the information gathering effort, told The Observer.

“[Doing an environmental study] is just a prudent move, given the fact that the property has been adjacent to a place that stores and dispenses petroleum products,” Trapp added.

The village board has also been exploring grant and low-interest loan options to pay for the purchase. According to Blundell, they haven’t decided what to do yet, but could end up getting a bond.

If the board decides to use a bond to pay for both properties, there would first be a required public hearing. But Blundell said the board has not timeline for the decision yet.

“We want to buy it, but we’re very reluctant to lay out direct bond money if there is any way we can get assistance from another source,” he said.

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