By Kathy Kahn
Auntie El’s Farm Market, a 33-year-old landmark on Route 17 South near the entrance to I-87, will soon have some upscale customers next door to the family’s store. Woodmont Properties has purchased nearly 55 acres of undeveloped land (formerly owned by the Town of Ramapo Development Corp.) in the unincorporated Town of Ramapo. The company plans to build 385 one- and two-bedroom apartments, complemented by a fitness center, swimming pool and clubhouse.
The heavily wooded property has been in the process of being cleared for several months and is ready for the next step—getting the infrastructure in to supply water, sewer and gas/electric/cable services to the parcel. Although it was raining steadily Monday and Tuesday, it didn’t dampen progress of the project.
While the owners of Auntie El’s are eagerly awaiting new customers to shop in its eclectic market, its neighbors to the north in the Village of Sloatsburg are concerned it will change the dynamics of the quiet communities in the western part of the county.
Sloatsburg was deeply concerned about how fire trucks will get in and out of the development, which is proposed to be made up of 16 three-story buildings. The property owners say it will provide an access road so that any fire apparatus can get to the site quickly, but Ramapo Planning Board Chair Sylvan Klein said it was “not legally binding on Woodmont to buy an aerial truck for the town for proper fire safety.” Nevertheless, the Village of Sloatsburg brought a lawsuit against the Town of Ramapo over its concerns on having proper access and equipment to service the site and prevailed in its request for the aerial truck from the developer.
Woodmont Properties, based in Fairfield, NJ, has built several luxury apartment/condo complexes, which can be seen on its website, www.woodmontproperties.com. What Western Ramapo residents really want to see is a something compatible that complements the community.
If all the pieces fall into place, it will complement the revitalization plans entrepreneur Michael Bruno has been working on in the Towns of Sloatsburg and Tuxedo along the same Route 17 corridor, where he is in the process of making Sloatsburg’s downtown a walkable community. After already opening Valley Rock Inn, a retail/fresh veggie market, a bike store and a craft beer bistro two miles further up from the proposed new apartment complex, it certainly will be a draw for new business and tourism.
The parcel was originally owned by the Town of Ramapo Land Development Corp. and had lain dormant for years, a former motel on the property crumbling before the bulldozers finally took it down. A few buildings remain standing, but for the most part, expect a new look for the south side of 17 as you had towards the Thruway and New Jersey.
Those who move into the new Woodmont project would become part of the Suffern Central School District, according to Steve Santola, Woodmont’s Executive Vice President.