Nearly an hour of debate and speakers. When all was said and done though, the Seneca County Board of Supervisors would defeat the resolution calling for the immediate sale of the former Seneca Army Depot.
“It’s a complex deal,” Earl Martin explained to the board during his time addressing the collection of supervisors, county employees and members of the public. “I’m here tonight to reaffirm my commitment to the Depot,” he explained. “If we could close on the deal tomorrow we would,” he continued pointing to the variety of challenges that have presented themselves throughout the process.
Dennis Money, of Seneca White Deer, Inc. reaffirmed his support for Martin’s plan, which includes preserving the unique white deer herd at the site. “He’s talked the talk and walked the walk,” Money continued — pointing to long-term commitment and continued investment in the Deer Haven Park. Martin was applauded by Seneca White Deer supporters when he began working with experts, like ecologist Keith Tidball, who noted that extensive research was being done to see what condition the herd is in right now.
Money said that he took a helicopter ride over the site last week and counted roughly 75-80 white deer, which is less than was previously spotted. It’s a concern, and according to Tidball the herd is at a crucial tipping point. Money also asserted that six bucks had been poached on the property, but Tidball could not back that up. He said that they had lost six white bucks, but the way by which those deer were lost was not as straight forward as simple poaching.
Tidball did agree with the raw assessment. However, he said in the coming months he would be working on a solution, which would provide concrete data for the herd. “It will involve multiple flyovers,” he explained. Tidball said that in addition to the flyovers — averages would be established based on concrete information and would allow those working on the site to have a true starting point for recovering the herd.
Fayette resident Patti Nogle, who had bid on part of the property, which they had leased from the IDA for several years spoke out against the process again. While there was evident animosity in the room between those on differing sides of the issue — most of those speaking against the deal voiced concerns with the process — and not what Martin had planned for the property.
For Martin, the lease agreement, which drew so much controversy — was simply a ‘Plan B’. “A solid ‘Plan B’ would benefit everyone — including taxpayers,” he continued.
Today on Inside the FLX, IDA Executive Director Bob Aronson described the lease as a ‘vehicle’ to get the deal across the finish line. Both said repeatedly that the end goal would be to have the property transferred, with Martin taking ownership by the end of this year.
The lease agreement does have an option for a second year, as per the IDA.
John Saeli, of Varick said in an email to Fayette Supervisor Cindy Lorenzetti that it would only be a matter of time before a lawsuit from an individual bidder, or a class-action lawsuit from multiple bidders presented itself.
Seneca Falls Supervisor Greg Lazzaro asked County Attorney Frank Fisher for am opinion on that assessment, but he could not provide an estimation. Fisher said that the County receives notices of legal action on a daily basis.
Nogle reaffirmed her support for more accountability. “As far as we are concerned this is a stall tactic by Mr. Martin, as well as back pedaling by the IDA,” she continued. “There needs to be accountability.”
“The right thing to do is sell the depot — not lease it. Leasing only benefits Mr. Martin. Selling is the option that gets the IDA out of being landlords, which was one of the reasons for selling in the first place,” she continued.
Seneca Falls Supervisor Steve Churchill said that the process was disrespectful to those who had placed a bid. “The process needs to be redone in some fashion,” he told the rest of the board.
Supervisor Lorenzetti noted that her Town passed a resolution 5-0; noting that both top bidders lived in her community. She went on to note that the specifics of Martin’s deal were not the concern, but rather the eleventh hour change, which brought so much contention to all parties involved.
Lorenzetti also serves on the IDA board. She voted for Martin’s bid to be accepted when the IDA voted on all of the bids.
Varick Supervisor Bob Hayssen said that he was tired of the “sweetheart deals” issued by the IDA in general, but that “all anyone wants,” is for Martin to pay the taxes.
The $28 million assessment, which has lived with the property for decades is the sticking point for Martin. According to Saeli though, the value of the property would only go down to $6 million in the best-case-scenario, which would be significantly higher than even the largest bid.
The highest bid was the number used to establish the basis for a PILOT agreement, which was subject to public hearing last week in Romulus. According to Saeli’s figures, the taxes due on the property would be closer to $192,000 in that best-case-scenario.
Supervisor Hayssen noted again that the updated assessment would be completed by May 1st.
The resolution was ultimately defeated 483-267. Even if passed, it would not have forced any action by the IDA despite the attraction around it. “It’s a symbolic resolution,” one supervisor said during a particularly heated point of debate during the multiple motions and votes that took place leading up to defeat.