SARANAC LAKE - Village Mayor Clyde Rabideau said Monday he still supports annexation of the American Management Association's campus into the village, despite the concerns raised by members of his own board that the village is giving up too much in a proposed deal with AMA.
"Hell, yes," Rabideau told the Enterprise after Monday's village board meeting, when asked if he still thinks the agreement is a good thing for the taxpayers.
Just minutes earlier, trustees Jeff Branch and Allie Pelletieri questioned the deal, under which the village would get easements that would allow a new water main and part of a 250-foot access road to a new water storage tank on the side of Mount Pisgah to be built across AMA's property, located off Trudeau Road in the town of St. Armand.
In return, the 63-acre AMA campus would be annexed into the village, and the village would upgrade and assume maintenance of AMA Way, and some of the water and sewer infrastructure beneath it. AMA Way would become a village street that would be part of Park Avenue. The AMA gate at the southern end of the company's property would be reopened to vehicle traffic, a part of the deal opposed by residents at the end of Park Avenue.
Branch said he was worried about the costs the village would take on by bringing AMA Way up to public road standards.
"I want to know how much it's going to cost the village," Branch said. "This (agreement) specifically says we will bring it up to standards. Nobody has been able to answer what those standards are going to be, and what is the cost associated with that."
"Ninety thousand (dollars)," village Manager John Sweeney responded directly.
But Sweeney said even that expense isn't necessary. He said he asked village DPW Superintendent Robert Martin if he would accept the road in its current condition, and Martin said yes.
Branch didn't seem satisfied with the response and moved on to question another section of the agreement that would exempt the property, as long as it's owned by AMA, from any village taxes or payments to the village in lieu of taxes, once it's annexed.
"It's important for the taxpayers to understand this," Branch said. "If this place is annexed into the village, we'll have to provide police, fire and take care of the roads. This agreement is voiding any chances of the village receiving a PILOT program. I'm still not seeing the benefit of annexation into the village."
Branch called for a work session to further discuss his concerns. Pelletieri said that would be a good idea. He also questioned what the benefit of annexing AMA would be to village taxpayers.
"If we're not gaining anything except responsibility, snow removal and policing, and upsetting people on the end of Park Avenue - we really need to work this out," he said.
Trustee John McEneany reminded his colleagues that the impetus for annexation of AMA's property is the water project.
"We have a 12- to 14-million-dollar water project going on, which at this point needs to go through AMA, period," McEneany said.
If the village doesn't go through AMA's property, rerouting the water line up Trudeau Road could be much more costly, McEneany added.
The lack of an agreement between the two sides is starting to affect work associated with the water project. AMA officials recently issued a stop-work order, prohibiting the village from working on the company's property until the deal is finalized. If the village's contractors can't continue their work because they can't access the AMA property, McEneany said the village could be hit with penalty charges of $5,000 to $10,000 a day.
Rabideau never spoke directly to the concerns raised by Branch or Pelletieri at Monday's meeting. But he told the Enterprise afterward that he hopes his board keeps an open mind about the advantages of the proposed agreement. He said those advantages include "stabilizing one of the largest employers in Saranac Lake" and adding potentially taxable property to the village, as AMA officials have said they plan to sell off some of their buildings and property.
Rabideau said he thinks the details and some of the concerns raised by board members will be flushed out at a work session on the annexation agreement that was called at 5 p.m. Monday in the village offices.
The village's proposed agreement with AMA also requires the village to amend its land-use code to create a "Planned Unit Development" zoning classification and apply it to AMA's property after its annexed into the village. AMA officials have said the designation would allow more zoning flexibility with future uses of the property.
Branch objected to that language, which he said makes it sound like the village is granting AMA a PUD before the village has even created the new zoning classification. Village Attorney Charles Noth said AMA's lawyers, who drew up the agreement, may not have understood the process, and he's asked them to revise that language.
Village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans said a PUD is a zoning tool that's used on projects "that might not otherwise be possible under the regular zoning, and provides the village with a plan to what's going to happen with that property, so there shouldn't be any surprises down the road."
But the move to create the new zoning classification comes as the village continues to work on a new comprehensive plan. Evans said some professional planners he consulted with have said creating a PUD classification before completing the new land-use code is "out of order." But Evans said he thinks having a PUD classification would be "of great value" to the village and could be used for developing other properties in the village, like its 10-acre sand pit off of Will Rogers Drive.
The board approved holding a public hearing on creating the PUD classification at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 26 in the village offices.