"This is a golden opportunity," Konowalow said Wednesday. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a property that's quite unique, a state forest available for town citizens to use."
Konowalow said that developing housing on the property would not be as lucrative for the Town and Tompkins County as it first appears, saying that it is so far north that the distance to Auburn is nearly the same as that to Ithaca, meaning that sales tax from residents there wouldn't necessarily come to the town.
"That is a lousy use of that land from a planning perspective," Konowalow claimed. "I urge the Town Board to do what is necessary to urge the State to acquire this land."
The 500 acre plot is currently owned by NYSEG. It was designated in 1969 as the location of the Bell Station nuclear plant project, which never materialized. The power company is reportedly interested in selling the land to the state for the purpose of creating a public recreational area.
Some board members, notably Ruth Hopkins, have expressed strong support for the project, but others have been hesitant to support the proposal until questions about the Town's responsibilities and costs are answered. Supervisor Kathy Miller says town officials are exploring those issues. She said a public meeting will take place at the end of February with representatives of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Fingerlakes Land Trust present.
"We're going to talk about what the Town's role would be if this were to happen," Miller said. "Will we have a financial role? A physical role as far as picking up garbage or policing it in some way? We have a lot of questions that we need answered before we do this."