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Park Point

Excerpt from Dec. 20, 2013 faculty report

The Park Point housing project continues through the environmental review process being led by the New Paltz Town Planning Board. I can confirm from my attendance at the three public hearings held since November 25 that most in the community recognize our need for additional student housing, and many also recognize the benefits this housing will bring to the broader community. At its meeting this week, the Town Planning Board voted to close the public hearing on the environmental review, and will begin to draft its “findings statement.” At the same time, the Board will complete its review of the site plan, a process that is well underway.

In the next major steps, the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) will consider the developer’s request for a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) through the County’s Uniform Tax Exemption Policy. That policy provides a path for meeting student housing needs for the College and our students, while also providing financial benefits for local municipalities; campus-built student housing, such as our new residence hall, does not provide revenue to support municipal services. The community has a process, through the County’s IDA, to determine whether and to what degree the long-term benefits of a project like Park Point warrant a financial accommodation to the developer that makes the project viable; I respect that process. The IDA will take input on this question at a public hearing on January 28, at 7 PM, at the New Paltz High School.

I have heard and understand the many conflicting viewpoints about this issue. In my communications about Park Point to the SUNY New Paltz community, the Town Planning board, and the Ulster County IDA, I have emphasized our current campus housing shortage and the benefits that Park Point housing will bring to the College, our students, and our future: we must continue to attract sufficient numbers of high-quality students to assure our financial viability and to sustain excellence in our educational programs. The housing provided by Park Point is critical to our mission and future.

In addition, I have conveyed my view that the welfare of SUNY New Paltz is essential to the continued vitality of the community and the region, and that the benefits of this housing extend beyond the College. In the IDA process, I will reinforce the College’s strong and steadfast commitment to the value of additional housing provided by Park Point.


January 23, 2014. Enrollment Update and Housing Issues:

Our spring semester enrollments are down slightly, although in the first week of class any assessments are preliminary. Overall graduate enrollments are steady with last spring’s numbers, although graduate enrollments have dropped by about 500 students in the last six years; enrollments in some graduate programs are relatively stable, while others continue to decline. The Provost and Graduate Dean continue to evaluate programs in which we must dis-invest to be able to reallocate resources to other areas.

We’re successful in spite of the deep external challenges we and other colleges face, given the steep competition for highly capable students. A slight decrease in undergraduate enrollment for spring semester stems in part from a great success: the unusually large entering class of 2008 had strong 4-year graduation rates, and the 5-year graduation rate this past spring was also very high (exceeding, for example, the 6-year graduation rate of the 2007 class, as I reported last month). Even though we exceeded our targets for incoming first-year and transfer students for this year, our total enrollment is down in part because the class of 2008 “moved through the pipeline” at a higher rate than we had anticipated a year ago when planning this year’s enrollment targets.

While we sought to compensate for this reduction by increasing the size of the incoming spring 2014 transfer student class, transfer student numbers this spring are about the same as last year. Our shortage of on- and near-campus housing was a clear detriment to meeting that goal. Admissions staff judge that we easily could have surpassed an elevated target with more housing. Numerous accepted transfer students complained about not being able to find suitable housing in the community; some asked to delay paying their deposit until they determined whether they would find appropriate housing. A number of students and parents at a recent transfer student orientation spoke with me about their disappointment in the value (cost and quality) of available housing in the community. And we know that many prospective transfer students don’t even apply to New Paltz because “the word is out” about our housing shortage.

I have been writing for some time about the threat that limited housing presents to our continued success. We are seeing that consequence this semester. We do not yet know the final spring revenue totals. However, healthy enrollment of new international students this spring is offsetting to a degree the lower domestic enrollment. Nonetheless, we expect some revenue shortfall this year. We will be able to use campus reserves to manage next year, but the completion of our new residence hall and construction of Park Point before the start of the 2015 academic year will go a long way in making such a gap a one-time, short-term challenge.

Excerpt from Nov. 22 2013 faculty report:

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Park Point Housing Development this project was accepted recently by the New Paltz Town Planning Board, an important step in moving this project to realization. The Planning Board has scheduled public hearings on Park Point for November 25 and December 9 at 7 p.m. at town hall. Those hearings will not modify or further challenge the FEIS, but perhaps identify other issues that regulatory agencies may consider in final design and approval of the project.

My letter to faculty and staff about “Why We Need Park Point” posted on the College homepage provides detail about what this project means to SUNY New Paltz, our future, and our students. Many of you are aware that one of the major points of contention over Park Point is whether it should receive consideration for a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) through the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency. Student housing is eligible for a PILOT through this program because a shortage of affordable housing has been identified as a significant issue holding back economic development in the Hudson Valley. By providing student housing, Park Point would relieve the strain that our students place on housing stock in New Paltz and surrounding areas, freeing up housing to meet other demands. That is the public and economic value that the Park Point project provides, beyond student housing per se, and why it warrants consideration for a PILOT.

President Donald P. Christian

 

What is Park Point New Paltz?

  • Park Point New Paltz is a proposed residential development that will provide safe, proximate housing for about 700 SUNY New Paltz students and up to 30 faculty or staff.

Why is it needed?

  • To provide housing for SUNY New Paltz students who are unable to live on or near campus due to limited housing availability, as well as a small number of new faculty and staff who have similar difficulty finding proximate affordable accommodations.
  • Currently, the campus can house just under half of New Paltz undergraduates.  Completion of the Park Point project will mean that on-campus or adjacent housing is available for approximately 60% of the College’s undergraduates.
  • The nearly 2,800 students and faculty who are currently traveling from surrounding communities are missing out on the campus and Village and Town experience while negatively impacting traffic congestion in New Paltz.
  • Fewer than 1,000 of the College’s 3,600 commuter students reside in the Village or Town of New Paltz, with nearly 2,800 commuting from locations throughout Ulster, Dutchess and Orange counties.
  • The College has no intention of growing its undergraduate enrollment; this project is to address existing housing needs.

Who are the key participants?

  • SUNY New Paltz Foundation, a separately incorporated not for profit affiliate of SUNY New Paltz created for the sole purpose of supporting the college’s mission.
  • Goshawk, LLC, wholly owned by the SUNY New Paltz Foundation.  Goshawk purchased and will lease to Wilmorite the property on which Park Point will be built. Use of affiliated corporations, such as Goshawk, LLC, to support the primary mission of SUNY institutions, is well recognized and utilized in the SUNY system to provide expertise that is not “resident” on campus and to provide a more efficient delivery of those services.
  • Wilmorite, a real estate company with which Goshawk and the SUNY New Paltz Foundation have partnered to develop, finance, construct, and operate Park Point at New Paltz. Based in Rochester, NY. Wilmorite has extensive experience with off-campus student housing, including developments in Rochester and Syracuse.
  • JAM of New Paltz, Inc is the property owner of 8 acres of the proposed site. It is the operating entity of the Moriello family for agricultural and related purposes. Goshawk purchased 42 acres of land for the proposed site from JAM.
  • SUNY New Paltz is a beneficiary of the project. The development provides a critical resource for its students and faculty/staff by providing safe, high quality, proximate and affordable housing, which fills a need that is currently unavailable on campus or in the local community.
  • The New Paltz Town Planning Board serves as the Lead Agency for the approval process for the project. It is responsible for ensuring that the development adheres to all relevant and applicable state and town laws, including the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process.

Where will Park Point be located?

  • The proposed site is an approximately 50-acre parcel of land adjacent to the south edge of SUNY New Paltz’s campus, on the west side of NYS Route 32 (Manheim Blvd) less than one mile south of the intersection at Route 299 (Main St.).

What will the impact be?

  • Wilmorite has completed a Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS) in response to the town’s inquiries and as required by law. A few of the key findings:

Environmental impact

  • Park Point will make it possible for about 700 existing students and up to 30 faculty and staff to walk or bike to campus instead of driving. This is expected to have the additional effect of reducing traffic congestion in town.
  • Federally-regulated wetlands will be preserved and enhanced.
  • Provides for a cluster design that maximizes the amount of open space associated with the project. Total site is 50 acres with about 23 acres that will be developed, leaving 27 acres unaffected.
  • No evidence of endangered species or critical habitat was found on the site.

Financial Impact

  • Construction will bring an estimated 215 jobs and $11.8 million in new earnings, plus an estimated $291,000 in building permit fees and planning board costs.
  • Upon completion of the project, Wilmorite plans to hire nine individuals to provide site maintenance and oversight. These jobs will provide an estimated $407,000 in wages in the town and village annually.
  • The annual economic impact, based on a 90% occupancy rate, is estimated at $7.8 million in new sales, 73 new jobs, and $2 million in new wages for New Paltz Town/Village, adding to the College’s current overall impact of $338 million in the Hudson Valley.
  • Provides an increased tax base through a payment in lieu of taxes as opposed to the current tax exempt status (42 acres) and reduced assessment agricultural value tax status (8 acres) of the lands currently comprising the project.

Impact on Community Services

  • The project is intended for college students and young adults, and would have a minimal, if any, impact on school district enrollment. Only 30 units will be occupied by new faculty and staff; few, if any, will have children.
  • Wilmorite will pay full property taxes on faculty/staff housing and on water/sewer infrastructure.
  • A payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to the Town of New Paltz will be made for fire, police, emergency and other services provided for the student housing, however, minimal impact is anticipated.
  • Construction of a wastewater treatment facility with capabilities for possible expansion for Town use. This will also allow the Village to conserve their existing system for development within the Village and support potential future development in the Town.
  • Construction of a well water supply and treatment system with capabilities for possible expansion for Town use. This will allow the Village and Town to conserve water for other development.