Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said yesterday that the county has to get “in the game” when it comes to offering the large parcels of land that major developers are looking for. Ossenfort stressed the need to bring larger properties to the market yesterday while touring the county’s industrial parks and potential development areas along with other county officials and media on Tuesday. According to Ossenfort, the county has missed opportunities to bring in major developers because of a lack of large “shovel ready” space.
The first stop on the tour was the site of the proposed casino project, just off of NY State Thruway exit 27. The site is approximately 512 acres and is made up of two privately owned properties which are primarily located in the Town of Florida and are currently zoned for agricultural use. Although the casino project never came to fruition, county officials still believe the site has great potential for development.
Mick Mullins, of Mullins Realty, which represents the property owners, joined officials at the site and talked about the variety of different projects that could be built there, including industrial, residential or recreational.
Montgomery County Business Development Center CEO Ken Rose described the site as “raw” and even though sewer, water and electrical services are readily available to the site, there still needs to be environmental and geological studies completed, as well as the issue of the re-zoning resolved before the site could be declared “shovel ready.”
“If the [Town of Florida] wants to keep this zoned agricultural, there’s not much we can do about it as far as future development opportunities,” said Rose.
In regards to the Town of Florida’s stance on the re-zoning issue, Rose said, “The town has always been adamant with us that they want us to fill the Florida Business Park Extension before they would entertain it.”
However, Rose explained that because of the length of time required to prepare and market a site, that waiting would create a timing issue.
“If tomorrow we announce [a new development] in the extension, we’ll be sitting here without any shovel ready site of any magnitude for the next 2-3 years that we can get to the marketplace,” said Rose.
Rose said that he understands people’s concerns about preserving the town’s rural character. However, he pointed out that given the site’s proximity to the NY State Thruway and other developments along Route 5s, that the area already has a commercial character to it. He also added, “This site is really shielded by the hills from the rest of the Town of Florida. When you are in the middle of the Town of Florida, you’re not going to see anything on this location.”
Next, the tour stopped at three more locations along Route 5s: the Florida Business Park, the Florida Business Park Extension and then the Glen Canal View Business Park. According to Rose, although the land at these parks are “shovel ready”, the existing space left at each of these parks is relatively small. Only about 8 acres out of 634 acres are available for development at the Florida Business Park and 165 acres are available at the extension. At Glen Canal View, there are several small plots available ranging from 4 acres to 14 acres. Rose said these sites aren’t large enough for many of the inquiries he is getting from potential developers.
“We are turning down leads that we can’t even respond to,” said Rose. “We probably get seven or eight of them on a yearly basis that we can’t respond to from very good companies. So we are missing that opportunity.”
Ossenfort said, “The bottom line with our situation is, you can’t win if you’re not in the game. When it comes to these large sites, we’re not in the game right now.”
The tour concluded at the proposed site of a Fulton-Montgomery regional business park, off of Route 30a in the Town of Mohawk, just south of the Fulton County line and the Walmart Distribution Center. There, Fulton County officials including Planning Director James Mraz joined Montgomery County officials to discuss the potential of the proposed site which would combine several properties into a single 260 acre lot.
Mraz said the recent completion of an engineering study was an important step in getting the site officially certified as “shovel ready” by NY State. Mraz said the engineering study showed that it was feasible to extend railway access to the site, which would be a significant feature to attract large developers.
However, the project also faces a significant hurdle. In order to hook up to the City of Johnstown’s sewer and water system, the land would have to be annexed by the city. That move would require the consent of both Fulton and Montgomery Counties as well as the Town of Mohawk and the City of Johnstown.
“We’re trying to do this as a partnership,” said Mraz. “We’re all going to get benefits from this and it’s going to benefit the entire region.”
“We’re trying to work with our partners here to get a seat at the table so that when these opportunities do come along, we can then capitalize,” said Ossenfort. “It’s going to take some time to do it. It’s going to take cooperation, it’s going to take all of us working together. But this is the type of project that could change the region and really be something that 30-40 years from now we look back at say we were really proud we did that because it really helped this area.”
(Photos by Tim Becker)