George Hoehmann is a big fan of Nanuet.
The lifelong Clarkstown resident has lived in the hamlet since 1997 and proudly serves as its representative on the Clarkstown Town Council. He first was appointed to the council in January 2009, after the late Ralph Mandia resigned due to poor health. He was elected to a four-year term last November.
Hoehmann said he is proud of both accomplishments. Even though he is a Republican, he was appointed to the board by three Democrats and a Republican, yet "nothing compares to being humbled to know that the voters elected me."
Hoehmann, 45, has been married to his wife, Kathy, for 13 years. The couple has three children, Ashleen, 18, Thomas, 12 and Ciara, 8. He said he loves the home-town feel of Nanuet and enjoys taking advantage of what it has to offer, such as going to the Rockland Bakery after church on Sunday mornings, eating pizza at the Nanuet Hotel and Nanuet Restaurant, going to Lake Nanuet, browsing for a good book at Barns & Noble in the Rockland Shopping Center and watching his kids play ball at Tennyson Park, which he calls "a hidden gem for Nanuet."
"It's a great place for families . . . there's a real sense of community within Nanuet and people pull together," Hoehmann said.
While there are many aspects of Nanuet he enjoys, he also knows the hamlet and town face many challenges.
He said the redevelopment of the Nanuet Mall and Pfizer properties are among the most important issues facing Clarkstown that will have the most immediate impact upon Nanuet in the coming years. He sees these being closely linked to the plan for a new Tappan Zee Bridge and the corresponding transit hubs that are part of that proposal.
"I am excited, but concerned, about the impact that this might have on Nanuet," he said.
Both the mall and Pfizer need to be redeveloped in a way that will boost the local commercial tax base -- thus easing the residential one -- and benefit local residents, he said.
"If these sites are appropriately redeveloped, the impact will be positive and draw added revenue keeping property taxes low and increasing employment and shopping opportunities for local residents," Hoehmann said.
Simon Property Group, which owns the mall, is scheduled to unveil a plan to revitalize the mall later this year. The talks, so far, have included construction of another anchor store and the possibility of a theater and restaurants. Such additions would be a boon to Nanuet, Hoehmann said, and he wants to ensure any mall expansion project doesn't get bogged down in red tape and local board and committee reviews.
"All of these improvements will make the mall a destination place again, much like it was when I was growing up here in the 1980s," he said.
As excited as Hoehmann is about the mall, he is equally concerned about the Pfizer property.
In May, the drug manufacturer announced the closure of its biotechnology and consumer health care plants by the first half of 2014, eliminating about 1,250 jobs at its Pearl River site. The company has no plans on what it will do with the soon-to-be empty buildings.
Clarkstown, Orangetown and county officials are working together to try and come up with a plan to attract businesses to the site, Hoehmann said, in an effort to retain some of the lost jobs and replace some of the lost tax revenue, especially to the Nanuet Union Free School District.
"Collectively, several local governments and the business community organizations must continue to work to actively address the Pfizer property and its future," Hoehmann said.
Both the mall and Pfizer issues revolve around economic development and the proposed new Tappan Zee Bridge and its transportation-related (train, bus and road) projects will greatly impact that development, Hoehmann said.
He is concerned there will be a push for more development that could further burden local governments and taxpayers if zoning laws are changed to allow for mixed-use zoning where only commercial zoning exists now, which could negatively impact local residents' quality of life.
"While connectivity to the city via rail and rapid bus transit are all good things the cost as measured in change of community character is something we need to be watchful if not leery of," he said. "We need to ensure that what makes Nanuet and Clarkstown so special is that we have services but that we also have parks and open space and room. If we fall into the trap of seeking added density we could overburden our schools and hinder residents' ability to afford to remain here."
Besides serving as a councilman, Hoehmann also gives back to the community in his professional life. For the past five years, he has been the chief operating officer of Camp Venture, a not-for-profit provider of family-like care and services to children and adults with developmental disabilities.
He helps oversee the agency's $33 million budget and more than 600 employees, who provide services to about 1,200 people.
"Working to help people with disabilities is extremely rewarding -- I absolutely receive more than I could ever give from the people I serve at Venture," he said.
One of Hoehmann's projects since joining Camp Venture was to cut costs by going "green." Under his watch, it has installed solar panels on the first group home in the state, and added several other solar projects, which were recognized by the state with an Environmental Excellence Award in 2009.