SARANAC LAKE - The clock is now ticking on the proposed annexation of the American Management Association campus into the village.
Lake Placid attorney Bill Kissel, the local lawyer for New York City-based AMA, hand-delivered the nonprofit's petition to be annexed into the village to Mayor Clyde Rabideau at Monday night's village board meeting. Kissel delivered the same petition to the St. Armand town board at its meeting Tuesday night in Bloomingdale.
"We're at a point where it's real now," said St. Armand Councilman and Deputy Supervisor Sam Grimone, who works for AMA.
The AMA gate in August
(Enterprise file photo — Chris Knight)
The submission of AMA's annexation petition sets in motion a complicated and formal process of public notices, hearings and deadlines, all leading up to separate votes by the town and village boards - likely sometime in the spring of 2013 - on whether annexation of AMA's 65 acres is within the overall public interest.
For Rabideau, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. Citing the potential for development on unused portions of the AMA property, Rabideau has called the annexation "the largest growth initiative in village history."
"It's all about job growth and increasing our tax base," the mayor told the Enterprise following his board's meeting. "The town doesn't lose anything. The town will gain taxable property as AMA subdivides the property with the assistance of our Community Development office and our (Local Development Corporation). We can assist them in marketing their property and selling it to taxable entities. So everybody wins."
Whether the St. Armand town board will vote in favor of annexation has been tougher to read. Town officials have so far not taken public stances on the issue.
"We haven't formally voted on that," Grimone said Tuesday when asked about it by town resident Sandy Hayes. "The board will make a decision and respond within the timetable. We'll follow the timetable."
"I wouldn't make a decision on that until I hear from our lawyer," said Councilman Charles Whitson, who will be the town's interim supervisor in 2013, following last week's death of longtime St. Armand Supervisor Joyce Morency.
AMA, which provides management training courses and seminars, has 140 workers and is one of the area's biggest employers. AMA officials have said they want annexation because they think being in the village can boost the prospects of developing unused buildings and vacant land on their property.
The organization's petition says future economic development of its property "is likely to be enhanced as a result of annexation because of the existence and availability of the planning and economic development offices of the village to provide assistance and services to the territory. This will in turn increase employment opportunities, create new opportunities for economic development and enhance the possibility of population growth by attracting new residents in both the town of St. Armand and village of Saranac Lake."
The petition also says AMA would benefit from village police protection if the property is annexed. Also, if AMA is in the village it will pay lower rates for water and sewer services.
AMA is tax exempt and makes payments in lieu of taxes to the town, Essex County and the Saranac Lake Central School District, and those PILOTs would not be reduced by annexation, according to the petition. It didn't say anything about adding a PILOT for the village.
"The petitioner is not aware of any substantial detriment to the territory, the town or the village if the annexation is approved," the petition reads.
Now that the annexation petition has been submitted, the town and village have 20 days to jointly publish notice of a public hearing, decide who will be the presiding officer at the hearing and choose a location for it, according to village Attorney Charles Noth. The hearing has to be held between 20 and 40 days after the notice is published, putting it sometime in late January or early February.
During the hearing, people will be able to make comments or submit documents on the proposed annexation. A court reporter will be on hand to record the testimony. Noth said both the village and AMA will each have several witnesses who will testify at the hearing.
Following the hearing, each board has 90 days to determine, by a simple majority vote, whether the petition complies with the law and whether annexation is in the overall public interest. That means a decision would come by sometime in late April or early May, at the latest.
If the town, for some reason, were to vote no on annexation, that wouldn't close the book on the proposal; village officials 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.
Village officials have been pursuing annexation of AMA for at least two years, if not longer. In September 2011, the village board voted 3-2 to approve a controversial annexation agreement with AMA that gave the village no-cost easements across the AMA property that the village needed for construction associated with its $12.5 million water project. In return, the village agreed to upgrade some of AMA's road and water infrastructure. The agreement also required AMA to petition the village and the town of St. Armand to annex its property into the village.
More than 14 months later, Rabideau said Monday he was glad to finally get AMA's annexation petition.
"With 10 days to go before the end of the world, according to the Mayan calendar, I'm glad it finally came in," Rabideau joked Monday night.
The last property to be annexed into the village was the Stevenson Commons subdivision in April 2005.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.