MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The last major obstacle in the plan to create a municipal parking lot and small passive lakefront park on South Lake Boulevard in the Mahopac business district has been cleared.
The Town Board voted unanimously at its July 24 meeting to sign a deal to purchase four parcels of land—totaling exactly one acre—from Mahopac Bank for $395,000.
The land is currently used as the bank’s parking lot and contains the former headquarters of the Greater Carmel-Mahopac Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber moved out of that building several months ago. It will be razed in the next 30 days or so to make way for the project.
The negotiations between the town and the bank have been going on for nearly two years.
“There’s been a lot of back and forth with the bank over things we wanted in the contract, things they wanted, things we didn’t want—we had to go back and forth,” said Supervisor Ken Schmitt. “I am happy to report that after multiple meetings with Mahopac Bank, we have come to an agreement with respect to those four parcels.”
Schmitt said the deal now clears the way to create much-needed parking for the downtown area.
“This has always been an issue with the merchants, business owners and residents alike,” Schmitt said. “They have complained for years that there is a lack of municipal parking in downtown Mahopac. We know that there is, and we are doing something about it. We are going to create a beautiful municipal parking lot and a passive town park—which is Swan Cove—that we purchased.”
The Swan Cove property, which once contained five dilapidated cottages that were torn down last summer, is approximately a half-acre in size. The town purchased that property about a year and a half ago for $1 million.
“This is the start of the change of downtown Mahopac,” said Councilman Mike Barile, who praised the bank for making the project possible.
“I want to publicly thank the Mahopac National Bank for putting up with us; for their patience,” Barile said. “They were very professional. We appreciate everything they’ve done for the taxpayers of this town. I truly believe no one is going to understand it or realize how good this is going to be until it’s finished.”
Barile noted that the price the town paid for the bank lots is “about half the appraised value.”
“It was a gift from Mahopac National Bank,” he said, adding that the bank will also contribute $50,000 to the cost of landscaping.
“They are paying for their own improvements,” he said.
Schmitt said the project will be a renaissance for Mahopac’s business district.
“We had to get to this point before we could go any further,” he said. “It was a little bumpy along the way, but we got through the bumps to get to where we are. There were concessions made by the bank—many concessions. We had to renegotiate and compromise. It’s going to be a rebirth, a revitalization of downtown Mahopac. It’s going to be beautiful.”
The parking lot will have about 90 parking spots and Councilwoman Suzi McDonough said she hopes business owners will utilize them for themselves and their employees to clear spaces for shoppers along South Lake Boulevard (Route 6N).
“We can’t make [merchants] use the lot, but if I was a business owner, I wouldn’t use the spots right in front of my place,” she said. “I would walk down a few steps. I think the Chamber is receptive to that.”
As part of the revitalization of the business district, new sidewalks and lighting will be added to the east side of the road, and the diagonal parking will be eliminated and replaced with end-to-end parking. That’s a project that has been in the works for several years—it’s being paid for with grant money—but town officials decided to delay it until the Swan Cove/parking lot project is complete.
Officials said that issues with the parking lot will have to be addressed. It floods whenever there are heavy rains.
“Ninety percent of the flooding and drainage problems are because there is a low section surrounded by high sections. Most of that water comes down Route 6 and goes right over the curbs because there is no lip over there to direct it down further,” Barile said.
That will be remedied, Barile said, when the new entrances and exits are created for the parking lot and new sidewalks are built. The state’s Department of Transportation (DOT) will build the sidewalks.
“We had a meeting with state DOT about 10 days ago. The entire traffic signals will be changed,” Barile said. “The traffic signal will be centered more into the intersection. There will be turning lanes. There will be a light for coming in and out of the public parking and in and out of the bank. But the most important thing [the DOT] is doing for us is they are rebuilding the whole sidewalk. We thought we were going to have to do that. We are taking out four curb cuts; three of them are 90 percent of the cause of the water that gets into the parking lot.
“We are talking about serious dramatic change, right down to the lighting, the main traffic light, parking, and accessibility to Lake Mahopac for the first time,” he added.
Barile said work is about to begin and that hopefully the park and parking lot will be completed some time next year.
“As we speak the electrical is being handled by a volunteer to remove the electrical off the old chamber building,” he said. “Once the building is knocked down, the property will be leveled and cleaned. Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks we will go out for RFPs [requests for proposals] on the design. We have some drainage that has to be designed as well. The process is in the works. Would like to have bids in over the winter and have full construction next year.”
McDonough said there is still much work to be done and the public is welcome to provide input into the park’s design, which is currently being handled by the Recreation and Parks Department.
“We want to make sure this going to be a stunning, usable park for everyone,” she said. “The Rec Department has been having meetings on this for two years and done a lot of research. We do want to move on this.”
Schmitt agreed, but said the use of a professional design consultant is crucial.
“This is a huge undertaking. It’s a lot of money to spend on this project,” he said. “We can’t do it alone. It’s our intention to enlist the services of a professional design firm to help us. The public will have input. When we get to the point where we can meet with the public to go over the design, we will ask for input.”
Addressing the concerns of some Mahopac Point residents, Schmitt said the park will be for town residents only, and no motorized vessels will be allowed to launch there. While the Rec Department will have a satellite office there, he said, the specific way to enforce residential status and other regulations is still being worked out.