Return to Headlines

Chester Union Free School District places on May 21 ballot a transfer of ownership of Maple Avenue building to Orange County

                                                                     LogoDescription automatically generated

May 8, 2024


Chester Union Free School District places on May 21 ballot a transfer of
ownership of Maple Avenue building to Orange County

CHESTER, N.Y. (May 8, 2024) — The Chester Union Free School District has placed on the May 21 ballot a referendum regarding the Maple Avenue Building that would authorize the district to transfer ownership of the 1935 and 1965 portions of the building to Orange County at no additional cost to Chester school district taxpayers.

The District would maintain ownership and use of the gym building and athletic fields.

“Winston Churchill said, ‘We shape our buildings; thereafter, our buildings shape us,’” said Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus. “I look forward to working with the building trades, some of our industry partners, the Village of Chester, and the Chester School District in this unique and collaborative effort to create a future for this beautiful building that will shape and enrich our community for years to come.”

The future of the building has been under consideration for some time, including a failed referendum in 2019, and current meetings with the district’s Parent Advisory Panel, the Maple Avenue Task Force, a community survey regarding the options available, Chester Board of Education presentations, and community forums.

“We have worked diligently on the future of the Maple Avenue Building for many years, so we are pleased to bring this property transfer to the community for a decision on May 21,” said Superintendent Catherine O’Hara. “We value the community's voice and interest in repurposing the facility and we appreciate County Executive Neuhaus and Orange County for collaborating with the district to assume ownership and revitalize the building. This initiative holds promise in fostering positive opportunities for Chester's future.”

The options available for district consideration were presented in a community survey last fall, including:

  • Listing it for sale - The district would lose all control of future use and ownership.
  • Demolition -  The district would incur significant costs including asbestos/hazardous material removal.
  • Mothball - The building would continue to deteriorate with increased safety concerns.

Other uses of the building, such as the district maintaining ownership while creating a community center, were not a consideration for the district, as the building would be required to be affiliated with student or school use.  

A gift of deed to a local municipality could achieve the goal to repurpose the building for community use, however, there had been no formal interest from local municipalities until recently when Orange County inquired about the building.

“When Orange County officials approached the district with a new option, it became immediately clear that Chester was looking at an excellent proposal that would accomplish the shared goals of the school community and the community at large,” said O’Hara. Once the referendum is passed, County Executive Neuhaus will send a resolution to the Orange County Legislature for approval.

Other local leaders commented on the proposed use of the Maple Avenue Building:

Joseph Minuta, Architect and Orange County Legislator
 “Much of our world is already built. Adaptive reuse of existing constructs repurposes past investments of materials, efforts, and skilled trades. This reduces the time, resources, and materials required while at the same time reviving a community.”

Alan Seidman, Executive Director at Construction Contractors Association of the Hudson Valley
“We look forward to working with the County to repurpose this building into a multi-use center for the public, including an educational facility for future trades, i.e. coding and programming. The opportunity to train our youth and keep them living and working in Orange County is worth creating.”

L. Todd Diorio, President, Hudson Valley Building and Construction Trades Council
“It’s an exciting time for all trades, including traditional construction trades and the high-tech, digital trades. Students are realizing that college may not be the route for them, and to have exceptional training opportunities for them right here in Orange County is a huge plus. The planned repurposing of this school building is a no-brainer and a win for the entire region.”

Glenn Ehlers, Orange County Legislator
“I’m excited about what’s in store for this terrific building and for our community. County Executive Neuhaus and the great team that will repurpose it have a wonderful vision and I’m grateful to them for seeing the potential in this structure and what it can ultimately become.”

To learn more about the Maple Avenue Building Referendum, please visit the district’s Budget Information Page, where you will find all of the presentations related to the proposed 2024-2025 budget, as well as the Maple Avenue Page.

In addition to the Maple Avenue building transfer, there are two other propositions on the ballot for the May 21 vote:

2024-25 BUDGET PROPOSITION: Authorization of the Chester Union Free School District to expend the sum of $36,503,854, which will be required for school district purposes for the July 1, 2024 – June 30, 2025 school year, and to levy the necessary tax. To learn more, visit the Budget Information Page on the district website.

CAPITAL PROJECT PROPOSITION: Authorization of the Chester Union Free School District to implement a school district safety improvement program consisting of door and transactional area construction at Chester Elementary School, construction of transactional area at Chester Academy and district-wide security upgrades, other improvements and related expenses at a total maximum cost of $1,867,000, and to levy the necessary tax. The costs of the project and the related borrowing costs are eligible for New York State Building Aid at 67.7%. An average home in Chester would pay $16.50 per year for 15 years. To learn more, visit the Capital Project Page on the district website.