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Water and sewer lines are sticking point in Potsdam apartment deal, town supervisor losing faith in ability to work together


POTSDAM — When it comes to village and town relations, it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Despite talks on both sides about the need to work cooperatively on future development projects, the village is hesitant to work with town officials on a deal that would bring nearly $20 million in development to the area, according to town officials.

Officials from both sides met with representatives of East Front Development Inc. on Wednesday to discuss their interest in building a large-scale apartment complex in Potsdam.

And while the village representatives didn’t completely reject the idea, they didn’t jump at the idea of extending water and sewer lines to the proposed complex, the main hang-up in the apartment deal, Town Supervisor Marie C. Regan said.

Village Trustee Stephen J. Warr was the only member of the village’s party to support the plan, she said. Ms. Regan said her impression was that Trustee George F. Regan didn’t seem to be very much in favor of it and that Planning and Development Director Frederick J. Hanss and village Administrator David Fenton didn’t think it would go.

The village’s hesitancy to reach a compromise with the town in yet another development project has caused the town supervisor, who has long been a vocal opponent of dissolution, to waver in her stance.

“After our meeting today I truly feel that I was probably wrong and that if there is going to be economic development in this township, it may be that dissolution is the only way to go,” she said.

The proposed apartment complex, which was to be built on Route 56 adjacent to the Potsdam Plaza, had grown from its original plan of 120 units to 144. Developers now are proposing a 192-unit apartment complex, Ms. Regan said.

The complex would be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, ranging from an estimated $747 per month to $1,063 per month, and would be marketed as a housing complex for professionals, she said.

Developers are eager to get the project going, she said, and offered to pay for the construction costs that would come as a result of extending the village’s water and sewer lines to the complex. Once they are installed, East Front also has agreed to pay higher rates than the charge for village residents.

And in an effort to make it a “win-win situation” for the village and town, developers have changed the blueprint for the plan, agreeing to build one of the complex’s buildings on village property, giving the village an estimated $4 million of assessed value, Ms. Regan said.

That could mean as much as $60,000 in tax revenue the village would rake in the first year the apartment complex is built, she said, not to mention the additional revenue it would receive from the higher water and sewer rates the developer would pay.

Despite the developer’s concessions, village representatives remained hesitant to commit, citing a level of unfairness to village residents who have to pay the higher tax rates for the services they receive, Ms. Regan said.

Annexation has been the answer to this type of disagreement in the past as the town has long been cooperative in working with the village, she said.

Since 1968, the town has annexed eight pieces of property into the village, according to town attorney Francis P. Cappello.

“When they say we have not cooperated and we have not allowed annexation, we have not allowed anything to happen, the track record doesn’t lend anything to their argument at all,” he said.

It has gotten to the point where the town no longer can afford to lose any more property to the village, Ms. Regan said.

“If they continue to annex our property, we aren’t going to be able to pay our share of the bills,” she said.

In the end, all agreed to table the discussion until after the dissolution vote in November.

But in the meantime, the village continues to work behind closed doors, working to secure a second developer to build in the village of Potsdam. Village officials remained hesitant to release any details of their plans Wednesday, Ms. Regan said, but they did make it clear that the two projects were completely different types of development.

“The one they are talking about that may happen near Potsdam State was not like this one. It was not high end,” she said. “It was not the same project.”

But after years of talk about a potential hotel in the village never came to fruition, Mr. Cappello said he remained skeptical the village would be able to pull off this type of deal.

“I don’t hold out great hopes that kind of project with the village is possible,” he said.

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