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Le Roy supervisor says monks’ property may hold key to revitalization

LE ROY – A 75-acre parcel just north of the village may hold the key to putting Le Roy back on the map as a business and industry leader in Genesee County.

That’s the word from Town Supervisor Stephen R. Barbeau, who said he is encouraged by recent actions surrounding the proposed development of the Le Roy Food and Technology Park at the corner of Route 19 and West Bergen Road.

On Thursday, Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) directors voted to apply for a $1.4 million state grant through the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council to acquire the land and build the infrastructure.

The grant application comes on the heels of Le Roy’s advancement in a $10 million America’s Best Communities contest sponsored primarily by Frontier Communication. Le Roy is one of 50 communities that already has received $50,000, and is in the running for a first prize of $3 million.

“Our goal is to attract clean (energy) commercial enterprises,” Barbeau said. “It would be quite a feather in the cap for a small town in Genesee County.”

At one time, Le Roy used to have the top three or four industries in the county, Barbeau noted. But Lapp Insulator is a shell of what it used to be, and Le Roy Machine and Jello are gone.

“Residents have had to bear the burden as far as taxes are concerned,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of cutting, particularly in the village, to hold the tax rate down as low as possible.”

Barbeau said Le Roy is working with the Town of Bergen to put together a proposal to Frontier by the first week of November.

He said the $50,000 already received is money “very dedicated toward planning and land acquisition – doing what we need to do to advance to the next round.” The town will contribute $15,000 in matching funds, he added.

The land considered for development is owned by the Mercedarian friars, an order of the Catholic Church. A seminary is on the site, which otherwise is a mix of farmland, wetlands and trees.

Barbeau said the town, in collaboration with the GCEDC, has an option to purchase it. He said it already has essentials such as sewer hookups, electricity and water, but added that it will take about $1 million to upgrade natural gas lines to support commercial development.

The GCEDC is involved because competition rules require the grant applications to be submitted by a not-for-profit corporation.

Le Roy was one of 138 applicants in the America’s Best Communities competition. The 50 quarter-finalist communities have six months to complete their community revitalization plans to be considered for additional funds.

In early 2016, 15 semifinalists will be selected to attend the America’s Best Communities meeting to present their strategies, with eight finalists then awarded $100,000 to continue implementation of their plans.

In April 2017, America’s Best Communities will name its three winners – those featuring innovative plans and efficient implementation. The winning community will be awarded $3 million, with $2 million for second place and $1 million for third.