LOCKPORT – Niagara County officials want to make sure low-income housing isn’t part of the development plan for the property on Davison Road that the County Legislature is expected to offer for sale again shortly.
“That the proposed use conforms to the neighborhood; that’s priority No. 1,” Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport, said last week.
The Legislature is to vote Tuesday on declaring nearly 67 acres of land on Davison as surplus property, a week after plans to do so at a special meeting were dropped.
The land is being divided into two parcels, although both will be sold in the same deal, County Attorney Claude A. Joerg said.
The county’s conditions are expected to be that the buyer will have five years to redevelop the 16.9 acres along the road, which will include the former county infirmary, a vacant building that has mold and asbestos problems. Later renamed the Switzer Building, the structure was formerly headquarters to the Social Services Department.
“The back parcel cannot be developed until the front parcel is developed or reused,” Updegrove said.
Joerg called it a “carrot-and-stick” approach. “The carrot is the back land. You do these things in the front so you get the carrot in the back,” he said.
The 49.4 acres are mostly open, grassy land to the east, with a short bit of road frontage south of the Switzer Building.
The county’s sale terms are expected to allow either housing, mixed-use or retail development on the front parcel. However, the property, on the border of the City and the Town of Lockport, is surrounded by some of Lockport’s most affluent neighborhoods, including the Windermere Road section in the town and the Bonner Drive-DeSales Circle subdivision in the city.
“I don’t think a (housing) project is a suitable thing to have in that neighborhood,” said Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls.
“We should define ‘low-income housing’ and make sure it’s addressed specifically,” Updegrove said during a committee meeting last week.
“You’re going to want a deed restriction,” Joerg said.
Updegrove said requiring that home lots exceed a certain size should be adequate protection.
The county has drawn the boundaries so that 25 acres are exempted from the sale.
That parcel includes athletic fields used by a local youth baseball league and other sports groups, as well as two county-owned records-storage buildings, an irrigation building for the neighboring county golf course, and an old cemetery where poor people who died in the infirmary are buried, mostly in unmarked graves.
The golf course itself is not part of the sale offer.
Administration Committee Chairman Anthony J. Nemi, I-Lockport, said the county has several options to sell the land, now that a long-pending deal with R.B. Mac Construction of Lockport has fallen through.
The county could hold an auction, offer it for sale through sealed bids or use a real estate broker.
Virtuoso said that in 2003, the front portion of the property was appraised by Girasole Appraisal of Niagara Falls at $285,000 to $335,000, while the rear parcel was valued at $235,000 to $275,000.
Updegrove said, “I think the value is probably less now, because the buildings have sat there for another 10 years.”
Virtuoso said the appraisal should be updated so the county knows where to set its asking price or minimum auction bid.