15 February 2011
On the proposed Gouveia gift of parkland
This document offers the public a little background on the recent gift proposal of the Gouveia parcels located at 1300 Albany Post Road, Croton-on-Hudson.
Despite the misinformation circulating in the Village, the gift proposal the Gouveia family extended to the Village in late January 2011 is the first ever such offer to the Village for this property. As far back as 1999-2000, initial conversations took place between John and Laurel Gouveia and the Village. These informal exchanges discontinued in 2000 and never resulted in an actual written proposal–until now. The Gouveia family has owned the well-maintained site for many decades. The Gouveia family purchased the site with the modern home already in place. A successful entrepreneur, John Gouveia designed many of the other features of the site, such as the small pond and its sitting area.
In essence, Mrs. Gouveia’s proposal seeks to conserve approximately 15 acres of existing open space on these acres. The short Term Sheet (see link at bottom) proffered by the Gouveia family conditions acceptance of the gift to limiting future use of the property as follows: “Village use of property would be for park, recreation and educational (PRE) type uses. Examples are trail system, picnicking, music events and exhibits, environmental education, senior citizen and other club meetings. These are examples. Generally, uses would be ones that would benefit from the scenic views, natural light and serene atmosphere of the property.”
The site comprises 15.63 acres and is zoned residential (RA-40), meaning the minimum lot size permitted is 40,000 square feet (0.91-acres). The site does have an approved three lot residential subdivision that has never been acted upon, and, therefore, comprises 3 separate tax parcels. Slopes and intermittent watercourses on the property, difficult sewer access, and limited acceptable driveway access to Albany Post Road collectively impose restrictions on the site’s development for any non-park, recreation or educational use. About 30% of the site is a park-like lawn and the balance is wooded, including some abrupt changes in grade. The southerly steeper section of the site is heavily forested. The northerly portion of the site comprises the lawn area where the single family home and the out-buildings are located. The current access to the site is a driveway from Albany Post Road in the northeast corner of the site. The site contains a small man-made pond and a driveway from the entrance at Albany Post Road that hugs the outer edge of the property and skirts the lawn area, while descending to the home below. The site has approximately 140 feet of elevation change within its boundaries. The lowest elevation is in the gorge that bisects the site east to west at 31 feet elevation above sea level along its westerly border at Route 9. The highest spot on the site appears to be approximately 174 feet above sea level along the site’s southern border with the Skyview Rehabilitation & Health Care facility. The site has over 1,000 feet of frontage on Albany Post Road, with Arrowcrest Drive intersecting with Albany Post Road at approximately the midpoint of the Gouveia frontage.
The Village has an over-the-road trail segment from Brinton Brook Sanctuary and the Jane Lytle Arboretum that comes down Arrowcrest Road and ends literally across the street from 1300 Albany Post Road. Very few use this road trail, as it has no desirable lower terminus. Should the Gouveia Park be acquired, installing a trail on its southerly section would provide such a destination for walkers that culminated in forested views of the Hudson River to the west. Walkers would access this site directly from Arrowcrest by walking 200 feet south and then crossing Albany Post Road. This low intensity trail use may be the only use for quite some time for the site, limiting the need for any immediate investment. While not contemplated in the immediate future, the Village could undertake at some future time the addition of a small entrance for vehicles with a few parking spaces at the southeastern corner of the site. The grade of the site is more favorable there for vehicle access than at other points along the frontage with Albany Post Road.
If we proceed, eventually the Village would gain access to the gently sloping lawn area in the northerly portion, either with Mrs. Gouveia’s permission while she is in residence or after she would leave the residence. With its mature trees and majestic Hudson River views, this setting has no equal among the public parks within the Village's portfolio. The Village is blessed with a dozen parks, most of which have an athletic or playground recreation focus, from our newest, Croton Landing, to some of our popular small neighborhood playgrounds. Gouveia Park however, represents a unique opportunity for an outdoor facility well suited to artistic or cultural performance events with a naturally sloped lawn for informal seating. As described in the Term Sheet, the Village could have limited access and use of this lawn area for outdoor events, subject to maintaining privacy for Mrs. Gouveia. Any long term programming for this park lawn would not occur until Mrs. Gouveia no longer resides on the property. But in the interim, in collaboration with local arts or cultural organizations, the Village could experiment with a few event types and formats to find what might work best for this site in the long run.
Since the Term Sheet would commit Mrs. Gouveia to maintain the home and other structures on the site for as long as she continues to reside there, the Village anticipates no immediate liabilities for operating or maintaining these structures. From visual observation, the well designed home is modest in size, relatively unique in its mid-century modern "all glass" main living floor with sweeping views up and down the Hudson. Furthermore, the home itself, while approximately 50 years old, appears very well maintained by the owner, as a primary residence. The home sits along the southern solar exposure of the site at approximately 104 feet of elevation above the Hudson River (sea level). Based on the Term Sheet, upon Mrs. Gouveia no longer residing on the property, the home would come into the possession of the Village. At that future time, the Village would have a range of options, including adaptive re-use of the home. Under this option, the Village would have two paths it could pursue. It could house Village staff or functions in the home as suited to the site. For example, the site might be appropriate as home to the Village's large and rich trove of historical archives and Village Historian, among others. Some uses contemplated during the Village’s earlier study of a community center may also be appropriate for this site. Or the Village could seek a tenant such as a nonprofit partner organization with an arts/culture/parks education mission that needed office and meeting space. At this point it is unclear whether the other storage structures on the property that used to house antique vehicles would remain or be value to the Village. Or the Village could make the current living floor space, with its gorgeous vistas, rentable space for conferences or special events complete with kitchen and bathroom facilities, while adapting the ground floor for with Village function or tenant function. ~In short, the home raises numerous long-term possibilities, none of which appear to have any near-term liabilities. ~
Right to collaborate with nonprofit
Should the Village pursue the gift and discover down the road that it cannot optimize use of the site or cost-effectively program the site, the Term Sheet does allow the Village to enter into a partnership with or transfer the property to a like-minded nonprofit organization. In practical terms, this provides the Village a way of sharing any liabilities or costs in the future, should it wish or need to do so.
Conformity of use
The term sheet is clear about restricting uses of Gouveia Park to parks, recreation, and education (PRE) uses. The intention of this restriction is similar to the PRE zone that the Village currently applies to numerous parkland parcels throughout the Village. Given the large residential parcels to the north and east of this proposed park, and the location to the south of the Sky View facility, the Village anticipates that a PRE use for Gouveia Park is compatible with both the long term interests of the Village and of the neighbors to 1300 Albany Post Road. The Term Sheet forbids use of the site for development of housing, commercial or other non-PRE uses. ~As a matter of record, given the challenging topography on the site, two additional homes could theoretically be sited on the hillside using the existing 3-lot subdivision on the books. Any commercial development would require significant zoning variances and be out of conformity with majority of the adjacent residential neighbors. ~Hence, for this 15.6-acre site in this steep wooded location, a restriction of use to parks, recreation, and education activities appears to make good common sense.
The "price" for the gift is rendering the parcel exempt from property taxes. The property owner currently pays approximately $48,800 in total annual property taxes comprising $17,600 in village taxes and $31,200 in school, county, town, library, and county refuse district taxes, based on 2009-2010 figures. Mrs. Gouveia appears determined to ensure that her property pass to a tax-exempt nonprofit or governmental entity to lock in the park, recreation, and education uses for her light-filled hillside with stunning, contemplative views. In short, the property appears destined to become tax-exempt, whether the Village is the recipient or not. Should the Village be the receiver of the gift, accepting it appears to offer the Village the most control over how the parks, recreation, and education uses might evolve over time. While no formal current appraisal of the site has yet been undertaken, the approximate full market value based on the Town assessor’s most recent published tax roll is approximately $1.5 million.
As this acquisition proposal seeks to conserve approximately 15 acres of existing open space on these acres, several steps would be involved, should the Village wish to proceed. The Village would need to establish a public benefit for the site–such as trails and PRE uses–and write and execute an agreement defining the final terms and conditions with the Gouveia family, and conduct the proper inspection of the site. Acquisition of potential open space is an unlisted action with respect to the Village’s State Environmental Quality Review regulations, the proposal will be forwarded to the Village’s Waterfront Advisory Committee for a Consistency Review of the proposal against the long-established policies of the Village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.
The Village underwent a similar gift acceptance process almost 20 years ago when a generous resident donated the over 20 acres of wetlands and woods that we know today as the Jane Lytle Arboretum. In that case, the residents created a nonprofit foundation that would manage the arboretum under contract to the Village. The potential Gouveia Park is, of course, quite different from the Arboretum, which had neither permanent structures nor lawns with river views. However, should it be beneficial to the residents of the Village, the terms of the proposed agreement would allow the Village to establish a partnership with a private or public nonprofit for management of the Gouveia site.
The accompanying Term Sheet outlines the intentions of Mrs Gouveia. The aerial view of the site included with the Term Sheet indicates the approximate boundaries as well as the contour lines (in 2 foot increments) as extracted from the County’s database. (Both boundaries and contours are subject to field verification.)