Ownership of Sherman’s center of talk
CAROGA — Many voices were heard during the town’s meeting Tuesday regarding the former Sherman’s Amusement Park and the Caroga Arts Collective’s future plans for the park.
Several town residents, community members, business owners and board members of the CAC addressed their concerns and stated their opinions on the possibility of the park becoming a performing arts venue.
Many of the comments were in favor of the CAC and its goals for Sherman’s.
“What I’ve seen happen with CAC and these wonderful musicians that have come to town — they have created a sense of community that was lost,” said Kim Hart, resident. “Look at what’s happened in the last few years. We’ve had several restaurants that have come back to life.”
“Everyday that goes by that a building languishes and it becomes more and more diapidated and becomes more and more of a liability. It’s been years and we’re not doing anything. [The CAC] are doing something, with volunteers they revitalized it with a whole bunch of effort, they brought in national acts,” said Dan Maciver, resident. “We’re drawing people there, we’re seeing restaurants full. These are the only people that have done anything to bring this property back, and for that reason, and that reason alone, I think it’s a good decision to ponder to turn this over with one exception, if we are serious about collecting bids and really bringing revenue into this town.”
Although a majority of the comments made were in favor of Sherman’s going to the CAC, Scott Horton, who owns a contracting business – and is a former planning board member — said he supports the CAC, however, he is in favor of the town owning the park.
“Sherman’s property is the most important piece of property in the town of Caroga and I don’t think anyone can make the argument that it is not,” Horton said.
He said Sherman’s should be owned and managed by the town. All of the revenue that is generated from the property goes to the town.
Horton said he would support the town leasing the property to the CAC.
“I do want to see the town of Caroga progress,” Horton said. “I believe in this town.”
Some concerns were raised on possible lawsuits from the former owner, George Abdella, if the town were to sell the property to the CAC since there have been threats of lawsuits in the past over selling the property.
In 2015, Abdella donated Sherman’s to the town, and former town supervisor Beth Morris said there were stipulations attached to the donation. The town had threatened to sue with an Article 78 to have those stipulations rescinded because of the tax on the town.
Morris said the board voted and accepted the rescission and voted to accept the donation, but without the stipulations.
“Mr. Abdella still believes the donation agreement is still valid, we don’t think so, the deed doesn’t say so,” Morris said. “There’s nothing in the deed that says that these stipulations exist, but the only way to clear it up is through a declaratory letter.”
She said she tried to get the vote to clear the title, but was defeated.
“To me, they’re giving authority to someone who doesn’t have authority. Nobody has authority over a town board. That being said, how is it then he can tell us we can sell it to one group, but not to another,” Morris said. “That’s a conflict. That’s a huge conflict and I think that’s going to be a conflict moving forward for the town. It makes no sense and I don’t think in a court of law it would make sense. You’re going to allow them to sell it to one group or donate it, which again we don’t know what that property is worth.”
“The interesting part to this whole thing for me, as a lawyer and for having been so heavily involved in the transfer of Sherman’s to Caroga, is that we have the chance to avoid legal problems if the CAC owns this property,” said Barbara Lee, secretary on the CAC board of directors.
She said Abdella has more than once indicated if the town should sell the property, he will sue on the donation agreement.
“What Mr. Abdella has done in this circumstance is to write a letter to the town board stating that should this property be transferred to the [CAC] he will not sue the town, he will waive his right to do so,” Lee said.
Lee also read a letter from Becky and Charlie Ward who run the Nick Stoner Inn and 19th Hole.
“We absolutely 100 percent stand by these musicians and feel that Sherman’s has been lost for so very long. A group of wonderful people have brought back to life such a beautiful and memorable location. Their music is an asset and happy presence is contagious and is so what we need in our town,” the letter stated.
Other CAC board members spoke on the behalf of the CAC.
Nancy Purcell said she and her husband housed and fed the musicians that came up for the Caroga Lake Music Festival.
“We had three musicians for each of three weeks, continued our backyard barbecues and found joy,” Purcell said.
Mary Peck said she supports the CAC because of what they bring to the community.
“It’s about the love of the music,” Peck said. “My kids love it, everyone enjoys concerts they put on and thank you, Kyle [Price]. I’m passionate about your vision and many people here are and we appreciate what you want to do for our town.”