Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

January 24, 2013

IDA land grab debated

BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — TOWN OF LOCKPORT –– Whether or not there is interest from businesses in coming to the Town of Lockport's Industrial Park is a big part of the disagreement between General Motors and the IDA over the agency's attempt to take 91 acres of GM’s land.

The town's Industrial Development Agency is looking at using its power of eminent domain to take the land from the Upper Mountain Road plant. The reason is because space in the park is needed, the IDA said.

But GM disagrees, citing a study by Robert Schell of Pyramid Brokerage in Buffalo, which the plant commissioned. The study evaluated the park and looked at potential interest from businesses coming to Lockport.

"There is significant amount of property available," said Brody Smith, a lawyer representing GM, citing the study. He added the study claims there isn't much demand for space.

Town and IDA officials disagreed. Speaking on behalf of the IDA, Lockport Supervisor Marc R. Smith said the agency's board of directors should move the process of eminent domain along.

"We honestly believe the need for space has accelerated," he said.

IDA Executive Director David R. Kinyon said 76 total inquires were made in 2012 concerning land availability. Most were made on pieces of land between 1 and 5 acres.

GM's John Blanchard said the plant was willing to talk about selling the land. Eminent domain was not an appropriate way to go forward, he said. 

Both sides made their arguments Thursday at a public hearing. The IDA will continue accepting written comments at its Dysinger Road office until Feb. 23.

GM owns about 120 acres, roughly bounded by Junction Road, the southern edge of the industrial park and the Lockport Energy Associates cogeneration power plant. The vacant land lies west of the GM Components plant.

The two sides have been talking since 2010 about GM selling the land to the IDA. Discussions broke down because of two provisions the IDA wouldn't accept. GM wouldn't disclose some environmental information about the land and the plant wanted to a say on any reselling of the property.

Under the provisions of General Municipal Law Section 858, subdivision 4, local industrial development agencies can acquire real property for economic development purposes through eminent domain.

The 201-acre industrial park is home to 15 businesses with a total of 417 employees. As a result of recent deals, such as the sale of property for the Yahoo data center and its future expansion, as well as a planned business incubator project by McGuire Development, the park has only 43 available acres.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.