Manitou Properties Seeks to Turn Plumbush Restaurant into Pre-K to Grade 6 School

Philipstown Planning Board gets site plan submission

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

A local business has begun efforts to turn the Plumbush Inn-restaurant into a private, for-profit school for children from pre-kindergarten to Grade 6.

The Plumbush Inn could become a private school if plans by a local business come to fruition. Photo by L.S. Armstrong

The Plumbush Inn could become a private school if plans by a local business come to fruition. Photo by L.S. Armstrong

Manitou Properties Co. LLC, a limited liability company, in July filed an application with the Philipstown Planning Board for site-plan approval for conversion of the historic property, which over the years has been a private residence as well as a restaurant. Officially known as Plumbush Inn at the Parrott House, it currently hosts weddings and other events. Located just outside of Cold Spring, on Route 9D at Peekskill and Moffatt Roads, the property is in a Town of Philipstown hamlet-mixed use zoning district. Manitou Properties does not yet own the site, with completion of the sale dependent on site-plan approval.

When it met July 25, the Planning Board declared the proposal a major project (triggering higher level scrutiny), designated itself as lead review agency, scheduled a mid-August site visit, and slated a public hearing for Sept. 12, provided material addressing concerns about traffic flow and handicapped accessibility becomes available before then.

Manitou Properties’ representative, Glennon Watson, of Badey Watson Surveying & Engineering P.C., told the Planning Board that the project entails “very little site disturbance” on the approximately 5.27-acre property.

In a Preliminary Statement of Use submitted July 11, Maria Stein-Marrison, one of the school’s organizers, said that the institution, called The Manitou School, plans to use the existing house, operate five days a week, follow the local school calendar, eventually enroll 75 pupils, and in the evening hold classes on such subjects as English as a Second Language or professional topics for adults. Regarding traffic generation, she predicted that the school would involve about 150 daily trips.

She also revealed that “the applicant anticipates that a significant number of students will be transported to the school by the local school district.” Ostensibly, that means that Haldane and Garrison school-district taxpayers would pay for bus service to a for-profit enterprise. Conversely, a for-profit entity would presumably generate tax revenue for local jurisdictions.

Stein-Marrison declined to answer questions, including queries about the bus transportation or whether the school would be a for-profit venture. “We are very excited about this project. However, the project is still in the planning phase” and school organizers will happily provide more information in due course, she said Wednesday (July 31) in an email.

At the July 25 meeting, Planning Board Member Anthony D. Merante asked if the school would be a for-profit institution.

“Yes,” Watson replied.

Haldane Central School District Superintendent Mark Villanti told on Wednesday in an email that he knows little about Manitou Properties’ proposal. He explained that “public schools are required to transport to private schools up to 15 miles from the location. So conceivably if this school is launched we would be required to transport” its students. “However, any village residents could be required to walk – which is about half of our student population,” he said. Moreover, he noted, “any district within a 15-mile distance of Manitou would have the same obligation, so this responsibility would not fall on just Haldane.”

The site-plan documentation states that the building’s second floor would contain school offices. That prompted questions at the Planning Board meeting about second-floor accessibility to the handicapped. Other questions concerned construction of a sidewalk, planned installation of a black chain-link fence, and traffic.

“Peekskill Road has become a by-pass for [avoiding] Cold Spring and Nelsonville,” with “very heavy traffic” on it, Merante observed, suggesting that vehicular exits onto Route RD from Plumbush could be difficult. “I know that road well.”

Watson said the student drop-off and pick-ups will occur outside rush-hour periods.

The board’s planning consultant, Susan Jainchill, wondered about the chain-link fence. “I think that’s going to be a point that’s got to be addressed, in how it’s going to be seen,” she said.

Stein-Marrison, of Manitou Properties, also is the founder-director of the Manitou Learning Center, a bilingual learning and play facility for pre-school-age children. It opened in September 2012 and offers a program designed as an educational bridge to kindergarten. [See Pre-school Profile: Manitou Learning Center, Oct. 29, 2012]  Tuition is $13,500 for a five-day-a-week student and $11,750 for one attending four days a week.

If the Manitou School opens at Plumbush, the property will in a sense return to one of its roots, for it reportedly had the earliest school in the Cold Spring area. According to William Pelletreau’s 1886 History of Putnam County New York, at the end of the 1700s, Cold Spring consisted of three or four houses near the  waterfront, with a few scattered elsewhere. Around 1800, “the first schoolhouse was built of logs and stood at a place called ‘Plumbush,’ a little south of the village, on the road to Garrison’s,” Pelletreau wrote.

Later, “about 1810,” he added, a frame schoolhouse was built, apparently on the turnpike (Route 301), in Nelsonville. In the mid-1800s, Robert Parrott, superintendent of the West Point Foundry, owned Plumbush, which by then contained a large house. Parrott’s personal residence was in Cold Spring, on a parcel now occupied by the Foodtown Plaza and Marion Avenue neighborhood.

2 thoughts on “Manitou Properties Seeks to Turn Plumbush Restaurant into Pre-K to Grade 6 School

  1. The requirement of public-school busing to a for-profit school seems ethically murky. Is this a case of the law being behind the times, since the K-12 for-profit education movement is relatively new? Or will this really be a tax-positive operation benefiting the local school district? How have for-profit schools affected other communities?

  2. It turns out there is a specific statute (NY Education Law Section 3635) that mandates such transportation. Interestingly, it seems that various public school districts requested relief last year in the form of a request that the 15-mile limitation be reduced to 5. Sen. Greg Ball opposed the relief requested, posting the following on his website:

    “It has come to our attention that local, public school districts are, in the course of seeking mandate relief from the state, recommending that such relief come in a reduction of the maximum mileage at which a district is required to bus nonpublic school students. Such a reduction, from the current state law mandate of 15 miles to a mere 5 miles, would negatively impact taxpayers’ ability to send their sons and daughters to religious and private schools. Namely, it would eliminate your right to school choice.”

    The “our” refers to the “Citizens Advisory Council for Nonpublic School Transportation.” The CACNST went on to call for expansion of the transportation mandate to 25 miles.

    I think many private schools are traditionally nonprofit because of the favorable tax treatment for charitable contributions and the ability to borrow through tax exempt bonds. So why would these guys want to be for profit? Are they targeting a specific student population?