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Buyer of county land wants to move it to Town of Lockport

LOCKPORT – The purchaser of Niagara County-owned land on Davison Road in Lockport wants to adjust the municipal borders so all of the property is in the Town of Lockport.

The Town Board will discuss the annexation request from R.B. Mac Construction Co. of Lockport at a work session Monday.

If it’s not approved by the city and town, the deal will fall through. “It’s a contingency in the contract,” said Morgan L. Jones Jr., attorney for R.B. Mac.

The annexation request was sent to City Hall July 20 and Town Hall July 21. According to Jones, that started a 20-day clock for the two municipalities to schedule a joint public hearing.

Town Attorney Michael J. Norris said the hearing would be followed by votes by both the Town Board and the city’s Common Council.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano, the city’s attorney, said he expects the hearing to be held in the first two weeks of September.

The company has been approved by the County Legislature to purchase property north of the county-owned golf course. However, the city-town boundary runs not only through the parcel being sold, but right through the main building on the site, the 100-year-old former county infirmary, later called the Switzer Building when it was used as the headquarters of the county Social Services Department. The building has been vacant since 2002.

After dealing with R.B. Mac since 2012, the Legislature gave final approval in May for the sale of the 16.9 acres closest to the road for $50,700, with the requirement that no low-income housing be constructed. The property lies near some of the Town of Lockport’s most affluent neighborhoods.

The deal gives R.B. Mac five years to develop the 16.9 acres. If the county approves of the results, the contract calls for R.B. Mac to buy another 49.4 acres farther east for an additional $50,000.

The municipal boundary is about 360 feet east of Davison Road. Jones said 80 percent of the property covered by the sale contract is in the town, but the part closest to the road is in the city.

Jones said R.B. Mac plans to renovate the building into several apartments with some retail and office space. The annexation request mentions a planned unit development with new homes. R.B. Mac owner Kevin McKenna did not return calls seeking comment.

Jones said trying to build a development in two municipalities at once would be unduly difficult. “To go before two planning boards, two zoning boards, two sets of building inspectors doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

There also would be two water bills, two sewer bills, two fire protection arrangements and two refuse collection plans, he said. All that could be avoided by placing the land entirely in one municipality.

Jones said the town was chosen because most of the property is already there. The town has lower taxes than the city, since the town has no general tax, but Jones said he’s not sure how much of an advantage there would be because of the town’s special district taxes.

“I haven’t heard any discussions about taxes,” Jones said.

Ottaviano said the 12 acres of land in the city has an assessed value of $30,000, but the land has never been taxable because it’s owned by the county.

“It might be $5,000 in tax, but we’ve never received that because the property’s always been off the tax rolls,” Ottaviano said.