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Town of Lockport sues for permission to test land at GM site

LOCKPORT – The Town of Lockport, which is seeking to take a chunk of General Motors Corp. property to enlarge its industrial park, filed more legal action against GM last week.

The town filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court seeking permission to go on the property to perform environmental tests – even though GM still owns the land and is fighting in court to prevent the town from taking it.

The town Industrial Development Agency voted in April to begin an attempt to use the town’s power of eminent domain to take 91 acres off Junction Road, bordering the industrial park.

The vacant land is part of the property that includes the GM Components Holdings plant, formerly Delphi and before that Harrison Radiator Division.

GM fought back by filing suit in the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court on May 15, seeking to stop the town’s eminent domain effort.

The case is to be argued in Rochester on Dec. 4, said Morgan L. Jones Jr., the Lockport attorney representing the town IDA in the litigation.

Jones said he doesn’t expect a ruling from the five-judge Rochester panel until about two months after the arguments.

As for the environmental issue, GM spokesman Robert E. Wheeler said, “We did not receive anything from them for the request to come on the property.”

GM owns 120 acres adjoining the town’s 201-acre industrial park. But the town is seeking only 91 acres because it believes the remainder is contaminated with industrial waste dumped by GM over the years.

The town wants to make sure the land is wants to seize is clean. “We feel obligated to do due diligence,” Jones said.

The town chose the eminent domain route after negotiations failed to reach a purchase agreement. The town objected to GM’s insistence that the town assume all responsibility for environmental trouble on the site, and then turn that duty over to future buyers.

David R. Kinyon, the town’s economic development director, said there have been no negotiations aimed at resolving the property dispute.

“We’ve been primarily pursuing the litigious proceedings,” he said.

Despite that, he said the town has received inquiries from companies interested in buying a piece of the GM land, and they were referred to GM.

Wheeler confirmed that was true.

“I know of contact with one company,” he said.

“The IDA’s objective has always been to get that property, which has been vacant forever, developed and creating jobs,” Kinyon said.

The town industrial park has only 56 acres left that haven’t been sold to various companies, include Yahoo, the Internet company with a computer complex and a planned call center in the park.