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Old River Road residents upset over property sale

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MASSENA — Several homeowners on the south side of Old River Road are upset that the town is putting a parcel of riverfront land on the north side of the road up to bid.

Property owner Edward J. Kaneb Jr. said the people on his road own property adjacent to the parcel and should be entitled to a deal on the land before the town puts it out to bid.

“We have docks down there; we’ve mowed the grass,” Mr. Kaneb said. “It’d be fair to offer the land to the people who cared for it.”

The parcel previously was owned by the New York Power Authority, which deeded it to the town as part of its 2003 relicensing agreement for the Robert H. Moses-Saunders Power Dam.

The Massena Town Council voted 5-0 Monday night to put the 4.5 acres of land out to bid. Officials are starting the bidding at $200,000.

Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said several Old River Road homeowners have attended Town Council meetings to state their belief that they should have the first chance to purchase the riverfront property.

“One or two homeowners went to the meetings and said they are entitled to the land because they believe they are adjacent property owners,” Mr. Gray said. “They are not adjacent property owners; their land is on the other side of the road.”

Mr. Kaneb disagreed. He said in past lease agreements for dock permits, they’ve been described as adjacent landowners.

Mr. Gray said some Old River Road residents have suggested they might pursue legal action if the town moves ahead with its plan.

Mr. Kaneb neither confirmed nor denied the possibility of a lawsuit against the town.

“I don’t know what plan we have,” he said. “We’re kind of in limbo as to what the town wants to do. It was my hope they would offer it to the adjacent property owners first.”

“Our hope is to work out a reasonable agreement, and if they put it up for bid we’ll certainly be one of the bidders,” Mr. Kaneb said.

He also said he believes the town is asking too much for the land. The Town Council recently had the property appraised at $330,000. Mr. Kaneb said that is more than fair market value, partially because of various factors that make the land difficult to develop. These include the steep slope of the property and a condition of the relicensing agreement that anything developed on former NYPA land cannot block the river view of current landowners, Mr. Kaneb said.

Mr. Gray said he thought $200,000 was a good figure to start with, as it equates to approximately $50,000 an acre.

“For St. Lawrence River property, it seemed like a fair price,” Mr. Gray said.

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