By Holly Crocco
The county-owned property at 34 Gleneida Ave., Carmel, which has been sitting dormant for several years, has the potential to be transformed into commercial and residential space, as long as parking can be secured.
In 2013, the County Legislature voted to relocate agencies that were housed at the former car dealership, leaving the building empty until lawmakers could decide what to do with it.
Last year, the property was listed for sale and an offer of $624,000 was accepted. However, the potential buyer is now asking the county for space to introduce parking, after learning that parking cannot be created around the building.
Byron Voutsinas has a plan to buy the property and add two floors, making it a three-and-a-half-story building, offering about 3,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground level and three to four apartments on each upper level, possibly offering workforce housing.
Renovations to the property, which include the addition of an elevator and making it handicap accessible, will likely cost between $700,000 and $1 million, said Voutsinas.
“We’re going to do everything to the nines,” he said at the county’s Dec. 20 Audit Committee meeting. “I really feel this will be the icon of Gleneida Avenue, what everyone else on this road will try to make their building look like, and try to amplify this town.”
However, the Town of Carmel requires the current proposal to have 32 designated parking spaces. Currently there are zero.
“We are coming to you asking for 24 spots,” said Voutsinas, noting that the property where those spaces would be created is currently used to house dumpsters and other debris. “It’s been there so long, and unused.”
He is offering to buy those spaces for $1,000 apiece.
Voutsinas said if those 24 spaces are secured, he can apply for a variance from the town for commercial parking for the remaining eight spaces along Gleneida Avenue. If he cannot secure the parking space from the county, Voutsinas said he will have to reduce the number of apartments planned for the building.
“Everything that we’re proposing to do with this building is going to create a great atmosphere for the Town of Carmel, for Putnam County,” he said.
Voutsinas said it was originally believed that 12 parking spots could be created around the building, along the side of the driveway to the county courthouse, but it was only after talking to county officials that he found out the Unified Court System likely won’t allow parking there.
Voutsinas said that unless the county offers some sort of parking to accompany this property, it will continue to be unattractive to potential buyers.
“This building needs a lot of work,” he said. “I’m not asking for a reduction in price. I’m not asking for you to fix anything. I’m just asking for something to make this project viable.”
Legislator Paul Jonke, R-Brewster, said he isn’t sure the deal is a good one for the county.
“You’re asking for 24 spots for $24,000 in perpetuity,” he said. “You’re going to create an income-producing building. I don’t agree with the idea that this should be a one-shot deal, and I think we should have someone who is an expert in real estate valuation – commercial valuation – take a look and give us an analysis and give us what the value of those spots are… Property owned by the county, the right to that property should not be sold forever for one price today.”
Further, Jonke noted that the sale of 34 Gleneida Ave., has been discussed at nauseam and a price was decided upon with the property the way it was – without parking – and said that if the county wants to relist the property with those parking spaces, it could do so.
Legislator Nancy Montgomery, D-Philipstown, said she supports the idea of offering workforce housing at the site. “That would be something I would be really interested in considering, because housing is really hard to come by – especially for government workers who can’t afford to live here,” she said.
Legislator Amy Sayegh, R-Mahopac Falls, said she likes the plans for the property, but agreed with Jonke that the price was negotiated with the lack of parking as part of the consideration.
“We listed it at a more reasonable price to entice people to buy it with no parking spots,” she said. “So, I’m wondering what the price of it would be if we listed it with 24 parking spaces. If we did that, then you’d be paying the taxes on this land with the parking spaces, as well.”
Voutsinas said he is open to renting the parking spaces from the county, if lawmakers would rather go that route.
He suggested a rental prices of $25 per space, per month, which would amount to $7,200 a year in additional revenue for the county. This would be in addition to the approximately $27,000 a year in property taxes the building would bring in.
Legislator Ginny Nacerino, R-Patterson, said she would like to see the plans for the building be successful. “It’s been an eyesore forever,” she said. “It has lots of negative aspects to it. This is a brilliant idea.”
Legislators said they will draft a letter to the county attorney to get an opinion on negotiations regarding those parking spaces.