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Penn Yan considers waterfront development

PENN YAN—A recently announced $2.5 million Restore New York grant will help spur development of the waterfront along the Keuka Lake Outlet in Penn Yan. Planned use of the grant funds and associated infrastructure improvements that are needed were discussed during the Sept. 28 meeting of the Penn Yan Planning and Development committee.
Chairman Robert Hoban said the meeting was not for making decisions but for a status report. He said, “There will be a lot of expense. The village of Penn Yan cannot do it alone. It’s a project that will benefit all of us. Let’s look at it and see how we can get it done.”
Acting village public works director Richard Osgood outlined infrastructure needs, particularly in the area near the former Penn Yan Marine Manufacturing property. Yates County is current owner of the 14 acre site near the south end of the outlet. Osgood said a study was done in the area. The water line is about 60 years old and the sewer line about 100 years old. He said, “We have issues with both in this area. The water line on Lake Street is one of the worst in the village. The conduit under the outlet is aged.” Osgood said the line under the outlet services the town of Jerusalem.
Osgood outlined work that would include a new line under the outlet that would run up Main Street to Lake Street and ultimately to Brown Street. The cost would be $1.2 million. He said the sewer line on Lake Street is in need of a great deal of work. 
The cost of work on the sewer line would be $1.2 million. Hoban commented, “The county, village and towns have to figure out what to pay for. The village can’t do it alone. If they all say Penn Yan do it, you have a problem. We have to see what we can do to make this happen.” 
Bill Laffin, chairman of the town of Milo planning board, said, “The towns will have a problem with the long lack of maintenance prior to the point that Jerusalem and Milo joined the system.” 
Finger Lakes Economic Development Center executive director Steve Griffin outlined the four buildings targeted for development. The most familiar building is the former Garrett Winery building at the corner of Liberty and Water Street. Renovations could include a restaurant on the third floor and mixed use on the lower floors including retail and offices. 
Two nearby warehouses on Water Street are also included in the grant, both owned by The Birkett Mills. Market rate apartments or condominiums are proposed for the upper floors of those buildings with retail or commercial use on the first floors. A third building on Seneca Street near Main Street, also owned by The Birkett Mills, would be renovated for storage of buckwheat hulls now stored in the Water Street warehouses.
Village resident Eric Ferguson asked what would happen if things fall through, stating, “A lot of businesses in this area are dropping out.” Griffin said, “I don’t think we’ll have trouble getting development here.” He said he is working with prospective tenants of the buildings noting, “I’m in discussion with several prospective tenants. They’re real. I’m fairly confident.” 
Griffin said the private investment would be just north of $7 million. He said he is excited about apartments in the Water Street warehouse buildings because that type of development would add to the dynamic of downtown. 
Responding to a question of whether retail at those locations would supplant or drain retail on Main Street. Griffin said, “A conduit between Lake Street and Main Street is needed. We need more of a retail and recreation area.” Parking has been brought up a lot according to Griffin and he assured the group that there is room for parking.
Yates County Legislator Dan Banach said, “When you have coordination it seems that a lot more money goes in that direction. That’s what the state and federal governments want to see. I think we’re going in the right direction.” Banach spoke about The Windmill as an example of a development that succeeded after it was called a waste of money. He said, “Look at it now. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and move ahead.”

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