Two building projects that have languished in Walton and Delhi are on the verge of being revitalized by a nonprofit organization called

John McAteer, the developer behind Sheffield Estates in Walton and River Run in Delhi, said he has been working with Craig Northacker, the executive director of Vets-Help, on the project. It involves building 50 housing units in each village to house disabled veterans and constructing factories in both villages to provide jobs for them.

A factory is planned in Walton to produce the modular homes, and in Delhi, a factory to manufacture all-terrain wheelchairs will be constructed. The foundations are in place for the first 16 housing units, located at the former Sheffield Estates.

"This is a big project for both Walton and Delhi," McAteer said Tuesday.

Walton Mayor Ed Snow said the proposed modular-home factory would be built on Water Street on 11 acres of land owned by the village of Walton.

"It will be one big, metal structure," Snow said Tuesday. "Walton will be the home base for the construction of modular homes to be used in developments in several states.

"This is going to be a big thing," Snow continued. "There will be 50 jobs the first year for both the disabled vets and for local residents."

Ira Epstein, Vets-Help managing director, said he and his business partner, Northacker, funded the nonprofit organization with $500,000 of their own money. Additional funding to begin building the first homes in the Walton community will come from government grants, subsidies and Veterans Administration mortgages.

"We also have private investors, and we are applying to sell tax credits as a nonprofit," Epstein said.

Factory to be running next year

"We will use an established modular-home company to build the first homes over the summer, and we will construct the modular-home plant by the end of the year," he added. "The plant should be up and operating in three months (after)."

McAteer said production of the modular homes is slated to begin next spring, and there are plans to manufacture more than 1,000 homes at the Walton facility.

Snow said that after the factory is established by Vets-Help, it will become an employee-owned enterprise. The homes and the industrial site would generate property taxes, he added.

"We will have new people living and shopping in the area, and we can finally do something good with the Water Street property," Snow said.

Delhi Supervisor Peter Bracci said he and Delhi Mayor Rich Maxey are meeting with Vets-Help executives Friday to work on finalizing the plans. Also Friday, Epstein said, he and Northacker are meeting with Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, in Middletown to discuss building a community there.

Bracci said Vets-Help has contacted State University of New York officials in Albany to arrange with SUNY Delhi's golf-course management program to allow veterans to train for careers and use the golf facilities.

"The all-terrain wheelchairs are designed to help disabled vets stand so they can swing a golf club," Bracci said.

"We are very encouraged by this proposal," he added. "It will be a shot in the arm for our area and will bring a lot of vibrant, young, educated individuals to our communities."

Both Bracci and Snow said zoning regulations and permit applications must be completed before the projects can begin.

Epstein said the concept for Vets-Help grew out of Northacker's frustration in attempting to deal with issues faced by disabled veterans.

Northacker served in the U.S. Army during and after the Vietnam War with the 82nd Airborne Division and the 11th Special Forces Group. He sustained serious injuries during airborne operations and is classified as a service-connected disabled veteran.

According to the website, an overview of the project includes:

Creation of affordable and well-built communities similar to those built in Levittown after World War II. The homes will be designed for disabled veterans and their families and will come with assistance in purchasing and social services. The latter is to help keep families together and reduce or eliminate dysfunctions related to combat service.

Veterans and their families will also be given vocational training and provided the opportunity to work and own businesses.

The establishment of these communities and economic zones to increase bases for real-estate taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, employment taxes, corporate taxes, user fees and more.

Federal funds and programs already allocated to veterans and disabled veterans that would be redirected to New York state.

Creation of cottage industries as a result of the formation of the enterprise hubs.

Partnerships between New York state and suitable qualified partners.


Patricia Breakey can be reached at 746-2894 or at

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