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Land swap being bargained for Lockport development plan

LOCKPORT – Local officials are discussing a revised version of the land swap between the City and Town of Lockport to facilitate a housing and commercial development on Davison Road.

Morgan L. Jones Jr., attorney for R.B. Mac Construction Co of Lockport, briefed the county’s legal staff last week on the status of the project, which is to be built on 16.9 acres of land that R.B. Mac has agreed to buy from the county for $50,700.

That purchase includes the 101-year-old Switzer Building, formerly headquarters of the county Social Services Department and, before that, the county infirmary. However, the project is complicated by the fact that the boundary between the city and town runs through the building.

The deal with the county gave R.B. Mac the right to buy an additional 49.4 acres of adjoining land for $50,000 five years later, if the county is satisfied with the results of the first phase of the development. But the contract also says that if an annexation deal isn’t reached with the city and the town, both parts of the sale are off.

“To develop that site would require two planning boards, two zoning boards,” City Attorney John J. Ottaviano said.

Last summer, Jones sought to convince city and town officials to have the town annex the entire 66.3-acre parcel by having the city give up its share. The Town Board had questions about its responsibilities for road, water and sewer maintenance on Davison Road; some in the city were reluctant to give up a potential development.

Jones said that R.B. Mac still intends to convert the Switzer Building into apartments, while constructing other housing and some commercial and office space around it. The second parcel would be the site of more housing, Jones said.

The county is not selling the An-Jo baseball diamonds, the golf course or an old cemetery.

City Aldermen Richard E. Abbott and Joseph P. Oates are trying to negotiate a partial annexation, and Town Supervisor Mark C. Crocker said the current proposal is for the city to take over about 7 acres of land in the first-phase parcel while trading 7 acres in the second-phase parcel, including the road frontage, to the town.

Abbott, D-5th Ward, represents the city portion of the neighborhood. The land trade he proposes would put all of R.B. Mac’s first-phase development in the city.

Crocker said he intends to hold a briefing for the Town Board at its April 4 work session.

He said, “We have not talked to the city directly. We’re trying to work together with the city to make a deal.”

The 66-acre parcel has 1,998 feet of road frontage, from the southern border of the Carlisle Gardens subdivision, which is in the town, to 100 feet south of Walnut Street.

Crocker said, “My own feeling is, I do not want that property to fall into disrepair.” But he added, “We’d have to consider what we would want to do in regard to that road. We don’t want to take half a road or a couple hundred feet of a road.”

“If they can bring a nice project into the city and we can work it out with them, that would be great,” said Oates, R-1st Ward.

Both the city and the town would have to hold public hearings and approve the land trade in votes of their respective boards.

Jones said, “It’s all planning and very tentative at the moment, but I think we’re moving forward.” But with all the bureaucratic parts to align, Jones said it might be “several months” before the issue is settled.