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April 20, 2013

Sharon Springs weighs taking baths

By JOE MAHONEY
The Daily Star

---- — SHARON SPRINGS — Village officials are turning up the heat on the would-be developer of the historic white sulfur mineral bath complex here, saying their next step is to take the property by eminent domain if they don’t see firm plans soon for improving the site.

The project is seen by many here as the linchpin in the village’s attempt to regain the storied stature it once had as a major magnet for tourism.

After the developer met separately this week with Sharon town officials and Sharon Springs village officials, Doug Plummer, the village’s deputy mayor, said the project appears to be mired in inertia.

Plummer said the presentation to village officials was unimpressive, and the village now plans to move ahead with a dual track effort to spur the redevelopment of the property.

“We’ve seen nothing concrete so far,” Plummer told The Daily Star. “We don’t need a PR (public relations) person. We need to talk to an engineer.”

While the village will continue to attempt to work with developer Q Sung Cho, it is also taking steps to pursue taking the property through eminent domain.

If Cho does not come up with a viable plan soon to rehabilitate the property, Plummer said, the village will begin to court other potential investors who have already expressed interest in the complex.

“We have two very serious parties who are chomping at the bit” to submit a bid for the property, which has fallen into serious disrepair after being vacant for seven years, Plummer said.

If the village takes title to the property through an eminent domain proceeding, a $1 million state grant the village controls for the rejuvenation of the mineral springs and complex of hotels would be channeled to the next owner, he said.

Aiden Han, a spokesman for Cho, questioned the legality of the village’s plan to potentially pursue eminent domain. He also said Cho is sincere in moving ahead with the redevelopment.

“We need everyone’s support to make this happen,” Han said. “They think this might speed up the process. Trust me - it is not worth their time and money to do this.”

Josh Kilmer-Purcell, co-owner of the Beekman Farm in Sharon Springs and one of the stars of the former “Fabulous Beekman Boys” television shown, said businesses in the town are eagerly awaiting the restoration of the mineral baths.

“We just need to see something to happen and Brent (Ridge, the second Beekman Boy and Kilmer-Purcell’s partner) and I will throw our support to the project,” Kilmer-Purcell said.

Kilmer-Purcell said that because of the long delay with the spa project, it is now appropriate for the village to consider “parallel paths.”

“Quite frankly, what is holding us back the most in Sharon Springs is we need another activity,” he said. “We have great shopping, great dining and great accommodations. But when people drive 31/2 hours from New York City, this (the lack of a spa facility) is the last piece of the puzzle that is holding Sharon Springs back.”