SARANAC LAKE - The St. Armand town council, not just the village Board of Trustees, will have to vote on the American Management Association's petition to be annexed into the village.
Whether the town board will support annexation of the 68-acre property isn't clear at this point. Town officials met with AMA representatives this summer but still haven't seen an annexation petition from AMA, and haven't discussed the proposal, town Supervisor Joyce Morency said Tuesday.
"The town board can't act because we don't have a petition, or even know what's going to be in it," she said. "Our board doesn't want to take a public stance until we've seen the petition."
Even if the town rejects AMA's petition to be annexed into the village, that doesn't close the book on the proposal; village officials still have another option.
Village Attorney Charles Noth, citing a section of New York General Municipal Law that addresses annexation, said the village can submit an application to the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court for a determination as to whether annexation is in the "overall public interest."
"In that statute, when you have a split vote where one town says, 'No, we don't think it's in the public interest,' and the other town or village says, 'Yes, we do think it's in the public interest,' the statute gives the village the right to apply to Supreme Court for a decision as to which village or town is right," Noth said. "There's a whole procedure the court will then go through, but at the end of the day there will be a decision, yay or nay. This is how New York state has determined the process should run if there's a dispute or a mixed decision."
As part of that process, the law says the court will designate three referees to conduct a trial on the annexation. Pre-trial conferences would be held to discuss the disclosure of evidence and discovery of documents and records to be used at trial. After the trial, the law says the referees would then submit a report to the Appellate Division, which would then make a determination as to whether the proposal is in the public interest.
The village wants AMA to support its Supreme Court application, if it goes that far, and has added language to that effect in the proposed annexation agreement the village board has been reviewing and debating in recent weeks.
"We want to include that in the agreement, and I don't think they would not do it," Noth said. "We just want to make sure they will support us if we need them to. We certainly don't want them going out there and opposing us."
Morency said she knows the village has the Supreme Court option if the town rejects annexation.
"Our lawyer told me that's one of the possibilities," she said. "If it came out of St. Armand's board that we didn't support it, I'm sure they would go to Supreme Court."
Although Morency said the town hasn't taken a position on AMA annexation, town officials said earlier this year that they could lose out on potential property tax revenue if parts of AMA's property get developed by a for-profit entity and the village moves forward with becoming a city, which means the town would no longer extend inside the village.
But the village's chances of becoming a city are slim, given a lack of support for the proposal from town-, county- and state-elected officials, and village officials have effectively dropped the proposal.
"There's still a chance of it happening, Morency said in August. "You can't say there's no chance. It's a big issue for us. If that ever rears its ugly head again, we're in big trouble."
Noth said AMA officials are waiting until the village creates a "planned unit development" (PUD) law to present the municipalities with annexation petitions.
Language in the first draft of a proposed agreement between the village and AMA would have required the village to amend its land-use code to create a PUD zoning classification and apply it to AMA's property after it's annexed into the village. AMA officials have said the designation would allow more zoning flexibility with future uses of the property.
The village board agreed to schedule a public hearing on creating the new zoning classification, which will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday. But in response to concerns raised by the board, the latest draft of the agreement removes the language that makes the deal contingent on the village creating a PUD.