A resolution that would have extended the purchase contract between KCG Development and the City of Amsterdam for the former Chalmers Mills property was voted down 3-1 by common council members during their regular meeting today. Alderman Paul Ochal cast the only yes vote. Alderman Pat Russo was not present. The resolution was nearly identical to one that failed during a special meeting last week, except the extension period of the new resolution was through October 1, 2020, instead of through December 31, 2020.
Before the vote, Mayor Michael Villa, who has argued consistently in favor of the extension, suggested the resolution be tabled, given the importance of the decision and Russo’s absence. Ochal made a motion to table, but the measure failed with no majority with Ochal and Alderwoman Irene Collins voting yes and Aldermen Jim Martuscello and Dave Dybas voting no.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, Mayor-elect Michael Cinquanti and Betty Clough, an Amsterdam resident, both argued against extending the contract. Alderman-elect Stephen Gomula, Community and Economic Development Director Amanda Bearcroft argued in favor of the extension. Bill Teator of DEW Ventures, a partner with KCG Development in the project also spoke in favor of the project.
Listen to the entire public comments portion of the meeting below:
When reached for comment, Russo said he was unable to attend due to traveling for work requirements. However, Russo said he has changed his position on the extension from last week, when he voted yes on the extension and said he would have voted no if present today.
Over the course past few days I have had many conversations with constituents who do not want the project to move forward. There also seems to be no support from our new incoming mayor, congressman, or state politicians. To me the project has lost support from the majority of the city. Also this project is in the 5th Ward and Alderman Martucello no longer supports the project. I would expect my colleagues to support me if there was a project in the 1st Ward that was not wanted.
After the meeting, Dybas provided a written statement in regards to his reason for voting no, referring the KCG as “the purchaser”:
…The reasons for my vote on amendment number two to [the] purchase and sale agreement as being put forth today are: 1) My attendance and participation at public presentation conducted by the purchaser. 2) My limited knowledge of certain environmental issues related to the site as well as others concerning the Army Corps of Engineers relating to project proximity to waterways. 3) My receipt of numerous telephone calls regarding this amendment. 4) My engagement in conversations with other concerned citizens of the City of Amsterdam prior to the October 1, 2017 purchase and sale agreement as well as those recently occurring during the prior two weeks. 5) My understanding and belief is that if this project is truly worth doing, then all the purchaser need do is to purchase the property by December 31, 2019 and then perform exactly as the purchaser has put forth the viable project the purchaser thought it to be originally.
Reached for comment after the meeting, Teator said he was “surprised and disappointed that a council that had voted unanimously on multiple occasions to support this project had a whole-hearted switch out of the blue. I’m not sure what changed to cause that kind of switch.”
Asked whether the vote means the end of the project, Teator said that it was “hard to say right now.”
“We really do believe that people in Amsterdam have great a great vibe, great energy,” said Teator. “People would like to have more feet on the street and more eyeballs in their downtown so that other small businesses can thrive and survive. That’s something we want to be part of. We’ll just have to re-evaluate how.”