LOCKPORT – The Court of Appeals has given the green light to the Town of Lockport Industrial Development Agency’s effort to take land west of the GM Components Holdings plant.
The state’s highest court this week threw out General Motors’ appeal of a lower court ruling that allowed the town IDA to take 91 acres through its eminent domain powers for the purpose of enlarging the town’s industrial park.
However, the town and the automaker still need to come to terms on how the IDA will pay for the land, but GM is not allowed to avoid giving it up, IDA attorney Daniel E. Seaman said.
“They either have to make a deal or the court will determine the value,” Seaman said.
The town sought to condemn the vacant land last year after the sides were unable to arrive at a sale agreement.
“General Motors has always been a willing seller and the town has always been a willing buyer,” IDA Administrative Director David R. Kinyon said. “It’s just that there were deed restrictions that the IDA found unacceptable, that would have restricted our ability to develop the property.”
The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled in December that the taking of the land was justified, pointing to the town IDA’s record of business aid and job creation as a justification that undermined GM’s claim that the eminent domain move was “without foundation and baseless.”
The town’s industrial park, which has frontage on Junction and Upper Mountain roads, is home to the Yahoo data center and numerous other businesses. Only 56 of its 201 acres are available, and the town figures that only 33 acres are actually suited for development.
Adding 91 acres from the adjacent GM parcel south of the park would give the town more development options.
However, the town doesn’t get to grab the land for nothing. “Our next step will be to get an appraisal,” Kinyon said. “We expect there will be an amicable agreement made.”
“GM is considering its legal options and will continue to keep the dialogue open between us and the IDA,” GM spokeswoman Mary Ann Brown said.
Kinyon said the entire 121-acre GM outparcel is assessed at $184,400, or $1,517 per acre. However, the town doesn’t want to take all of it, being concerned about possible environmental problems on some portions of the land.
Morgan L. Jones Jr., the Lockport attorney who argued the case for the IDA, said the assessed valuation is probably based on the land’s former use as a rental to local farmers. “I’m sure it’s low,” he said.
Jones said if the sides can’t reach an agreement, the IDA can go to State Supreme Court in Niagara County and obtain an acquisition order, which would give GM three years to file papers seeking compensation.
He said there is no legally imposed deadline for the sides to make a deal.