postheadericon Lansing Board Deeply Split on Bell Station Land Proposition

bellstation_120Last week Finger Lakes Land Trust Executive Director Andy Zepp asked the Lansing Town Board Wednesday to approve a resolution supporting state acquisition of 490 acres of lakefront property for public use.  But the Board was deeply split in a working meeting Wednesday on how the land should be used.  While some board members saw value in preserving the land, others worried that town would lose future additional tax money, particularly in light of the power plant hemorrhaging tax revenue value.

"I talked to somebody today who said the DEC has no money," said Supervisor Kathy Miller.  "You'd be a fool to get into anything with them right now.  My personal feeling is that there are too many questions about this to pass it.  I also think if we ever did, since it's such a huge tract of land, it should go to a town vote.  I don't think five people should decide whether this gets pulled off the tax roles."

The nearly 500 acres are located in the northwest-most corner of Lansing, north of the power plant at Milliken Station.  The eastern part of the property is leased farmland, while the property closer to Cayuga Lake is wooded.  When NYSEG sold the plant in the 1990s the land to the north was retained as the future location of Bell Station Nuclear Plant.  That project never came to fruition.  NYSEG now wants to sell the land to New York State for a public recreation area.

Councilwoman Ruth Hopkins argued strongly to support the sale, arguing that the property is a unique opportunity to have a state forest in town that Lansing residents can enjoy.

"It's probably one of the last few waterfront parcels, and the only one in the Finger Lakes region that can be preserved in this manner," she said.  "I think it's really consistant with our comprehensive plan, preserving space (in the north of Lansing) while developing centrally.  I thought it was in line with what folks have said they want, preserving open space while developing nodally."

But Councilman Ed laVigne argued as forcefully that the land should be made available to private developers.  He said that he felt Zepp was rushing the board to make a decision it is not ready to make.

"I find it ironic that we're scrambling to get development in the Town Center and then we're considering taking 490 acres off the market," he said.  "Let's see what the market bears.  Let the developers come in.  There's one more lakefront property.  This is it.  We're in a great area.  We have affluence here.  A lot of people come here for a variety of reasons.  I would just wait and see.  I don't think there is any rush to push this ahead."

"I live on the lake," LaVigne said.  "My property wouldn't have been available ten or fifteen years ago if someone had put that into trust.  I look at Eastlake Road... that property wouldn't have been available if it had been put in trust."

Councilwoman Katrina Binkewicz suggested a compromise that could preserve a large piece of the land and still bring new revenue to the town.

"I think the piece as a totality is less interesting than the slope and the waterfront," she said.  "You could have some really nice top-of-the-hill development on the ag land with views of the lake, and get your extra tax value while preserving some of the old-growth slopes.  Then it would attract people to those houses because it would have access to a state park there.  So it would create a zone that would have value in a different way than we've had in the past."

Miller argued that the project could cost Lansing more than just the loss of potential future tax revenues.  She said that unless the question of who would pay to maintain the property is resolved she is not willing to suport the proposition.

"There are a lot of questions.  Who picks up the garbage?  It could be a real expense to the Town," she said.  "DEC does nothing, but they'll tell you what you should do.  Then the Town gets stuck with paying for all of it.  They'll even tell you you want a bathroom there but you should build it.  It's like a state unfunded mandate."

The board did not vote on the proposition.

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