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Village settles lawsuit, buys back Salt Point property

    WATKINS GLEN—The Village of Watkins Glen has bought back the Salt Point Road property that houses its raw water intake facility from Magee Point Associates for $825,000.  Mayor Mark Swinnerton announced the move at the board meeting held on Tuesday, Jan. 3, and said later, “this is simply to save the village taxpayers money.”  The village is in negotiations to sell the building to a second developer who will construct luxury apartments on the property while allowing the village to “cohabitate” and continue operating the existing intake facility, said Swinnerton.
    The property was sold to Magee Point Associates, which is owned by Bill Benedict, several years ago for $225,000.  Swinnerton explained that the original plan was to relocate the raw water intake to allow Benedict to develop a bar and eatery on the property.  A $1.2 million grant was obtained for renovations, however the bids for construction of a new raw water intake facility all came in over budget, ranging from $1.8 to $2.3 million.  The village was supposed to relocate the facility by July 15, 2011 but when they were unable to do that, Benedict served a notice of eviction.  The village counter-claimed with an eminent domain action and the parties were locked in litigation until this resolution was finalized.
    The village board concluded that settling the lawsuit was preferable to years of potential litigation and the uncertainty and attorney's fees that come with it.  Trustee Scott Gibson explained the board had “every reason to believe that the lawsuit was not going to go away, the attorney's fees could have been astronomical.”
    “[The village] probably sold the property for too little, and might have overpaid to get it back, but you can't change the history,” said Swinnerton, “but the other project was not moving forward, was not going to move forward, and we did it for less than if we were building a new [raw water intake facility].”   Trustee Paul Clifford agreed “this seems to be the logical way to proceed.”
    Instead of spending as much as $2.3 million to build a brand new facility, the village will expend the $825,000 to repurchase the property, $60,000 in attorney's fees and the cost to perform some renovations and improvements on the property at an estimated total cost of $1.1 million.  The property will then be sold to an as yet unnamed second developer at fair market value so that the village will ultimately have only a $500,000 investment in the project, estimated Swinnerton.  He added, “the $1.2 million grant is still in place and the property will be back on the tax rolls.”
    Swinnerton also said that building a new facility was not necessary, as “the pumps were recently upgraded,” and the current facility is “adequate.” Eventually, the village would like to install a longer, deeper pipe that will aid in reducing the presence of chlorine byproducts. “We don't have to do that right now,” said Swinnerton, but added that “we would like it to be done in the next few years.”
    The village hopes to sell the property to the second developer before the end of February.  The residential side of the project is planned to include 16 high end apartments that include docks and lake access.  The project calls for an addition to the south of the existing structure to accommodate the apartments.  There is no information available yet as to when those apartments may be ready for occupancy but more information should be available when the second sale is finalized.


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