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Legislature denies Deferiet’s request to repurpose park

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DEFERIET — The village board has learned a park is forever a park under state regulations, even if it sits unused for years and is better suited for other needs.

The board petitioned the state Legislature for the authority to convert the former ballpark on Route 3A to a site for a water tower. According to state regulations, in order to convert parkland, a parcel of equal or greater value and size must be substituted.

The park, formerly owned by the St. Regis Paper Co., has not been used in five years, according to Mayor Robert J. Foster.

The village acquired the park 10 years ago, the mayor said. However, since Little League games now are played on the Carthage and West Carthage fields, the Deferiet field no longer is used, not even for practice.

Mayor Foster said that when he came into office, the field was mowed in 2008, 2009 and half of the 2010 season even though no one used it.

“It was not mowed last year, except for knocking it down a bit,” Mr. Foster said. “No one complained or said anything about it. We probably won’t mow this year except when it gets too tall.”

He said the village needs a new water tower. However, it cannot be built where the present one stands because it is on the former paper mill’s property.

The mayor pointed out the village is small and there is no land to purchase to build on or to designate as parkland. In addition, the village has four other park areas and a baseball field that are used by residents.

The mayor said local representatives were behind the reclassification of the property.

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, sponsored a bill which passed in the Senate.

“They have a long-standing issue with water supply in the village. The senator has been working with the mayor to solve this, and this appears to be one part of the solution. Senator Ritchie supports it; that’s why she sponsored and passed the bill. Both the mayor and Senator Ritchie believe this is going to help with economic development and job creation in Jefferson County,” read a statement from Sen. Ritchie’s office.

Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, also sponsored a bill.

The mayor said the board plans to resubmit its request and suggest that the proposed park to be built on Route 3 at the former Crown Cleaners site in Herrings be considered a replacement park, since the needed water tower will be part of the system to serve Herrings also. If the conversion of parkland is approved, the village would partition off the property and sell what is not needed to site the water system to develop commercial business along the Route 3A corridor.

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