MILTON — The town has formed a committee to study whether the town should acquire all or part of Camp Boyhaven, the former Boy Scout camp that was recently bought from the scouts by a conservation-oriented local businessman.
Town Supervisor Scott Ostrander said the seven-member panel represents different interests, and will make recommendations to the Town Board, which will make any decision on whether the town should buy any of the nearly 300-acre property near Rock City Falls, which some residents think could become a town park.
Ostrander promised there would be a public referendum on any proposed purchase. “It will go to permissive referendum on any purchase we decide to make,” Ostrander said on Friday. “There are a lot of people for it, there are a lot of people against it.”
The historic Boy Scout camp on Boyhaven Road, which closed in 2017, was purchased for $1 million from the Twin Rivers Council in October by John Munter Sr. of Middle Grove. The deal was signed three months after the scouts withdrew from an earlier deal with the town of Milton over their frustrations with lack of progress toward closing it.
While Munter explained he bought the land to allow more time for the town of Milton and state Department of Environmental Conservation to work out deals that would keep the 297-acre property in public ownership, he also suggested he wanted some arrangement made within a year.
DEC officials have said buying Boyhaven to preserve it as open space fits with the state’s Open Space Plan, and qualifies for funding through the Environmental Protection Fund.
“We understand the Town of Milton is considering purchasing a portion of this property for town park purposes. The Department looks forward to working with the Town to develop a plan to protect this property,” DEV Region 5 Director Robert S. Stegemann wrote in an Oct. 5 letter to Ostrander.
The Scouts closed the camp after the summer of 2017, and agreed to a deal that summer under which the town would pay $1 million for the property. The town had anticipated receiving $500,000 from an anonymous donor.
The deal bogged down, however, after the donor withdrew the offer, believing his or her identity would be exposed.
When the Munter purchase was announced, Ostrander said the town would establish a committee to study uses, costs and maintenance needs for the property.
There was at least some concern that a private developer would buy the land for a housing development if the town and state didn’t purchase it, though the camp is miles from the nearest public water and sewer systems.
Members of the town study committee include John Bartow, a member of the town Planning Board who has a professional planning background, as chairman; Town Board members Barbara Kerr and Benny Zlotnick; Assistant Highway Superintendent Jason Miller; Building Inspector Wayne Howe; Realtor Kelly Delaney Elliott; and builder Tom Boghosian. The committee will hold its first meeting on Monday, Nov. 19.
“I wanted it to represent all the interests,” Ostrander said.
The property, which Scouts used for nearly a century, contains bunkhouses, meeting buildings and other facilities; most of the land is wooded with trails on it. The property borders a section of the Kayaderosseras Creek between Rock City Falls and Middle Grove.
The property is assessed for $1.4 million, but the Boy Scouts as a non-profit organization were exempt from paying taxes. The property will be taxable under Munter’s ownership, though. Town officials estimate the total annual tax bill — including town, county, school district and special district taxes — would be nearly $28,000.