LOCKPORT – Although a panel of appellate judges has approved the taking of 91 acres of General Motors Corp. property, attorneys for the Town of Lockport Industrial Development Agency said this week that it’s going to be quite a while before that actually happens.
The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled that the town IDA was justified in its effort to use the power of eminent domain to take the land after the sides couldn’t agree on a purchase contract.
The IDA sought the vacant property to enlarge the town industrial park, which borders on the land now owned by GM Components Holdings, which owns the giant factory complex in Lockport originally known as Harrison Radiator Division and later Delphi Thermal Systems.
The court’s ruling said the Lockport IDA had compiled such a strong track record of aid to business and job creation that GM couldn’t meet its burden of proving that the IDA’s move to grab the 91 acres is “without foundation and baseless.”
“I guess they came down on the side of economic development for Lockport,” said Morgan L. Jones Jr., the Lockport attorney who argued the case for the IDA.
The 201-acre industrial park is home to Yahoo’s data center and soon-to-be-built customer call center, on 42 acres, along with numerous other small businesses. There are only 56 acres left available, with the IDA concluding that only 33 acres are actually suitable for development.
The eminent domain move thus meets the legal requirement of being “rationally related to a conceivable public purpose,” the Rochester court ruled.
“They said the IDA had done a good job attracting businesses to Lockport, and it was a valid reason to expand the industrial park,” Jones said.
GM’s local spokeswoman, Mary Ann Brown, said the company had yet to analyze the decision and was unable to comment.
GM has the option of trying to persuade the State Court of Appeals to take the case, or of negotiating a compensation payment from the town.
“We’ll look forward to negotiating with General Motors regarding price,” IDA Administrative Director David R. Kinyon said. “We always expected to pay.”
“That [price] has to be determined by the court if the sides can’t agree,” IDA attorney Daniel E. Seaman said. “We don’t own the property in the sense that we could sell lots.”
He added, “We have to exchange appraisals. We have to pay them up front the value of our appraisal.” Seaman wouldn’t disclose that figure.
Kinyon said, “There’s infrastructure work that needs to be done before it’s shovel-ready.”
Besides the installation of roads, water, sewer and power, Jones said the town has to file an acquisition map showing the exact boundaries of the land to be taken, and an order vesting the town’s title to the land.