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Town of Lockport planning industrial park infrastructure

LOCKPORT – The town and its industrial development agency will split the costs of preparing for infrastructure work in the new section of the town’s industrial park, but the town itself will pay the entire cost of constructing it.

The park is being expanded by about 91 acres, land that the town acquired last year through an eminent-domain case against General Motors. The town IDA did have to pay GM $546,000, the appraised value of the vacant land immediately south of the current 200-acre park on Junction Road.

Town Economic Development Director Marc R. Smith said Thursday that the town has received $19,000 from Empire State Development toward the cost of engineering and design for water, sewer, roads and other infrastructure in the former GM land.

IDA Attorney Daniel E. Seaman said that the estimated cost of that engineering work is $95,000 but that the estimate came from Wendel, the town’s retained engineering firm, about a year and a half ago. Smith said the town would seek bids for the actual engineering work.

Supervisor Mark C. Crocker said the town normally doesn’t have to bid for a professional service, but in this case it must because the source of the grant is the federal government, which passed it through Empire State Development. Crocker confirmed that the Town Board envisions splitting the engineering cost 50-50 with the IDA, after the $19,000 state grant is applied. As for the construction of the infrastructure, that’s entirely a town expenses, he said.

Any buildings eventually erected in the park by businesses would be paid for by the companies, Crocker said.

The town has about 30 acres left available in the original section of the industrial park. “We get proposals coming in frequently for the land we have left,” Smith said. Although, at the moment, none of the proposals has advanced to the firm stage, Smith said, without moving quickly to get the new section ready, “we could find ourselves with no land.”

“To not make that kind of investment would be super-shortsighted,” IDA Chairman Thomas A. Sy said.

Having land with ready infrastructure and environmental clearance gives the owner of such land a major competitive edge in the business siting game. “Shovel-ready land is becoming more and more scarce,” Smith said, noting that the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency’s industrial park in Wheatfield, Vantage International Point, also is nearly full.

He said that last week, he was able to prepare an offer to a potential tenant in three hours because the industrial park’s infrastructure and environmental testing is in place. However, in that instance, he said the company could go anywhere in the Northeast.

“You kiss a lot of frogs in this business looking for your prince to come along, or your princess,” Smith told the IDA board.

On another topic, Smith said his February idea of creating a wetlands mitigation bank – town-owned wetland property that could be used to make up for any wetlands developed by business – might turn out to cost more than the value created.

Besides having to create a wetland that would be approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, the town would have to maintain it. A developer could pay the town $60,000 an acre for the right to develop other wetlands.

“Something that looked like a real no-brainer might turn out to be a wash,” Smith said. But the notion is still being investigated.

“It’ll be critical for us to find the right piece of land,” Smith said.