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MUSEUM GROUP HAS CHANCE TO BUY LOVE CANAL SITE

The executive director of the Love Canal Area Revitalization Agency says a private developer has decided not to buy vacant land near the toxic dump.

That appears to clear the way for Love Canal 2000, a preservation group planning a historical center at the site, to acquire the land.

Frank W. Cornell said late Friday that he would contact County Legislator Samuel P. Granieri, chairman of Love Canal 2000, and Susan T. Wattle, a board member of that group, to discuss a sale of the land.

Granieri's group is proposing a 14-acre, $6.4 million educational and interpretive center, featuring a 60-foot observation tower affording a view of the fenced-off dump site west of 100th Street.

A two-story center would be built along Frontier Avenue between 100th and 102nd streets. Ownership by a public-private corporation is envisioned, and a consultant's report estimated that between 50,000 and 150,000 visitors could be expected each year.

Cornell said last week that if no sale is made, the city or the state would end up with title to the vacant land.

City Senior Planner Thomas DeSantis said at a public meeting last week that the city administration supports the Love Canal 2000 plan, so if the city takes the land, it could be smooth sailing for the group.

Cornell said the would-be developer expressed interest in the land about three weeks ago.

Cornell said it was up to him to sell the last 35 acres that belong to the agency between 100th and 102nd streets, north of Frontier Avenue and south of Colvin Boulevard.

"The property's actually been available for sale since about 1990," Granieri said. "Now, as soon as we hold the announcement of the educational and interpretive center, we hear about a developer."

"I've been trying to pursue other people," Cornell said. He said he offered the land to Occidental Chemical Corp., which was found responsible for most of the original chemical contamination in the neighborhood.

Cornell said Oxy turned down his price of $2,000 an acre, as did Socko Contracting, which bought a chunk of the evacuated area several years ago.

He criticized Love Canal 2000 for not making a firm offer.

Wattle said: "We've had lots of roundabout discussions. It was not an appropriate thing to put in an offer while we were having a feasibility study (for the historical center) done."

Granieri said Love Canal 2000 members are ready to buy an option on the land. "A couple members of the committee were willing to step forward out of their pockets to put an option down," he said.

"If you want the property, you'll have to put down a down payment and a closing. No options," Cornell said.

"I'd like to have everything squared away by May 31, because that's the end of our fiscal year. If we go into the first week of June, that's not the end of the world, but much longer than that, we'll have to have another year and another (annual) audit," said Cornell.

Cornell, an accountant who lives in Sanborn, said it's his job to sell the land if possible. The state would get the money, because it was state legislation that created the agency.

Last week's tempest over the land for a Love Canal historical site isn't the first time the promoters of the idea have tangled with the revitalization agency.

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