LOCKPORT – The Town of Lockport’s plan to take land from General Motors to expand the town industrial park moved another step forward Thursday.
The town Industrial Development Agency voted to start the state-mandated environmental review of the plan, with itself as lead agency.
It was another move toward a decision on the effort. Morgan L. Jones Jr., law partner of IDA attorney Daniel E. Seaman, said the IDA has until April 24 – 90 days after the public hearing the agency held Jan. 24 – to determine that a “public use” exists and justifies the taking of 91 acres owned by General Motors west of the GM Components Holdings plant in Lockport, formerly Delphi and Harrison.
Seaman said that doesn’t mean the IDA will actually try to enforce the taking at that time.
That land also borders the town’s industrial park, which covers 201 acres. But because of deals the IDA has made with various tenants over the years, the IDA has only 56 acres left to sell.
GM owns about 120 acres in all on the park’s southern boundary, but the IDA is attempting to take only land it believes to be environmentally clean. Other parts of the vacant GM property are believed by the town to contain waste dumped by GM over the years.
The sides tried to negotiate a sale of the property for more than two years, but the town IDA balked at GM’s conditions, including an alleged effort by the automaker to restrict future use and resale of the land. Since the IDA’s motivation for acquiring the land is to resell it, the deal fell apart.
GM presented an affidavit at the Jan. 24 hearing from Robert Schell, president of Pyramid Brokerage Co., claiming there is a poor market for commercial property in Western New York. GM’s attorney, Brody Smith, argued that means there is no public interest in taking GM’s land.
A report at the IDA meeting indicated that the eminent domain effort so far has cost the IDA more than $7,400 in legal fees to the Seaman Jones firm, plus nearly $1,000 worth of legal advertising in local newspapers.