Blooming Grove - The Larovere-Urban Green Foods project that would develop the 258 acres former Camp LaGuardia property in Blooming Grove and Chester took a few steps toward reality on Tuesday night. Blooming Grove Town Board voted unanimously on a resolution to support the project, proposed as a complex that would include a hotel, two restaurants, boutique, glamping, regional sports dome, indoor and outdoor art, farming plots and some farm worker housing.
Chester voted on a similar resolution several weeks ago. This project would preserve the main building, which has high potential historic status and potentially related grant monies. It would also be a central connection point between Goshen and Chester along the popular Heritage Trail, the new Schunnemunk Rail Trail and north through Blooming Grove to the Moodna Trestle and, some hope, eventually through Cornwall and to Newburgh’s waterfront.
Blooming Grove resident Eric Anderson, one of the developer principals, had made a brief presentation several weeks ago, describing some of the highlights of the detailed Powerpoint presentation the team made several years ago. The county bought the site in 2007 to solve a dangerous situation, where homeless NYC men were not being properly reviewed to exclude felony arrest individuals. This resulted in a handful of arrests of loitering, wandering inebriated men along Greycourt Road.
The history of the site is legendary, from women’s prison to army barracks, to homeless housing, to years of trespassers, some trashing windows, some stealing copper piping, and others filling websites of long abandoned ruins with stories of ghosts. A notorious New York City landlord’s $10.5 M cash in hand offer was declined, and high density housing (whittled down from 900+ units to 600) was turned down by both Chester and Blooming Grove because Mountco Corp. eliminated the promise of commercial development that would balance the tax impacts. Since then the property has been vacant, except for a round of war games that terrified residents, when a film company is said to have misrepresented a rental.
The potential for a multi-use project that would appeal to most residents because of its respect for the site’s historical value, protection of black dirt farmland, art, sports and tourism advantages would seem to be a perfect fit. But the previous financial offer by Larovere-Urban Green Foods was under $2M, and there was reluctance since the county had paid $8.5M for it. The principals, answering Orange County’s latest February 2022 RFP (Request for Proposals) have made the point that the potential grants for development and taxable income from the approximately 10 commercially rich uses could repay what the county paid for it in tax income within a few years. Also, there were no other responses to the RFP.
Blooming Grove’s vote of support seemed to include a sigh of relief for a potentially popular and fiscally prudent use, especially with the eastern section of the Southern Tier’s tourism business on the verge of an era of new success. Resident Ryne Kitzrow spoke, urging Eric Anderson to confirm the project’s connections with related organizations such as Chester Agriculture Center, the Land Trust and Open Space Institute. Anderson invited Kitzrow to meet with him and see the efforts already made along those lines and give any other recommendations.
Deputy Supervisor George Doering pointed out that the nod of support is not binding, and that the towns will retain oversight over the project if it is accepted by Orange County legislature and officials.
Blooming Grove Town Board voted unanimously on a resolution to support the project, proposed as a complex that would include a hotel, two restaurants, boutique, glamping, regional sports dome, indoor and outdoor art, farming plots and some farm worker housing.