October 15, 2009


IDA rejects offer for former Contento’s scrapyard

Officials say bid to purchase 14-acre site too low as IDA continues to seek buyer for C’ville property

EntranceBob Ellis/staff photographer
A bridge and iron gate leads into the former Contento’s scrapyard on South Main Street near Homer.

Staff Reporter

Members of the Cortland County Industrial Development Agency agreed Tuesday to reject a purchase offer for the former site of Contento’s scrapyard in Cortlandville.
The IDA decided instead to maintain the property and more aggressively market it for potential buyers, said IDA Executive Director Garry VanGorder, who declined to give the price offered.
IDA President Paul Slowey said the offer was far below the appraisal and assessed value of the property.
The property is assessed at $133,600, according to the Cortland County Real Property Tax Services.
The offer was not from a business or industry, Slowey said.
“Someone tried to throw a number at us and pick it up for a steal,” he said.
Contento’s, a Cortland-based demolition company, used the 14-acre scrapyard off South Main Street near Interstate 81’s Exit 12 for scrap cars.
Contento’s still holds the title to the property, but the IDA has a purchase option that would allow the agency to buy it for $1 if an acceptable offer were made, VanGorder said.
The IDA bought development rights to the property in January 2001 for $500,000, intending to get it cleaned and attractive for a potential industrial or business development. State and federal grants funded the purchase.
The IDA decided to allow the state Department of Transportation to do some low-level maintenance to make the property more presentable to potential buyers. The DOT has offered to remove some brush and shrubs along the property’s right of way, VanGorder said.
The IDA is paying $10,000 a year to keep and maintain the site, which includes paying property taxes and paying Microbac Labs to test the property for underground contamination, VanGorder said.
Property taxes on the 14-acre property amount to $2,763 to the town and county this year and $2,763 to Homer Central School District for the 2009-10 school year, according to Real Property Tax Services.
Previous environmental assessments the IDA conducted revealed “elevated numbers of volatile organic compounds,” as well as high levels of lead in the soil, Diane Carlton, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation said in September 2008. Volatile organic compounds are gases emitted by substances such as fuels, paints, lacquers and pesticides.
Based on the preliminary findings, Carlton has said the land could be developed for commercial use provided there is continued monitoring conducted on site.
Carlton said the property could potentially qualify for one of the brownfield clean up programs: the Environmental Restoration Program.
According to the DEC s Web site, through this program the municipality would be reimbursed by the state for 90 percent of on-site investigation and remediation costs and 100 percent of off-site investigation and remediation costs. Once remediated, the property could then be used for commercial, industrial, residential or public use.
The brownfield status also provides the owner with tax abatements and absolution from liability for any future contamination found on the site.
Slowey said the IDA has been in contact with the DEC, but has not developed a specific cleanup plan. A plan would depend on the type of business purchasing it, whether the buyer offered to help conduct the cleanup, and the type of construction that would need to be done on the site, Slowey said.
Slowey said the IDA hopes to attract a business to the site, but said the IDA has already achieved the primary objective the agency had in obtaining the purchase option.
“The primary objective was to clean up the mound of scrap metal that was located at the gateway to our community,” Slowey said.


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