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State budget includes possible turnover of 45 acres on Point Airy to Ogdensburg

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OGDENSBURG — A bill included in this year’s New York state budget authorizes the state Office of Mental Health to transfer 45 acres of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center campus to the city.

“We’re pleased,” City Manager John M. Pinkerton said Monday. “We think this is a good start.”

That start also could mean the beginning of negotiations on a price. The language authorizing the transfer says the state Office of Mental Health will transfer it to the city at fair market value.

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, announced the transfer’s inclusion in the budget deal, which was reached Sunday.

“By authorizing this transfer, we are taking the first step to realizing the dream of returning this vacant land to the community, getting it back on the tax rolls and into productive reuse,” Mrs. Ritchie said in a news release.

The land is located along Route 37 between the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority industrial park and the psychiatric center’s Children and Youth Facility.

The city hopes to eventually take over 160 acres of land on Point Airy, which the state marked as surplus, that includes potential industrial and residential properties.

Part of that land is waterfront along the St. Lawrence River.

The plan ultimately would call for the city taking over the property where the Ag Energy LP cogeneration plant is located as well as a wooded parcel close to the industrial park.

“We still think that the plan as put forward with four parcels make a lot of sense,” Mr. Pinkerton said. “Each parcel has a unique opportunity for growth.”

Sarah V. Compo, spokeswoman for Mrs. Ritchie said, “The inclusion of this first parcel is kind of a down payment.”

Ms. Compo said Mrs. Ritchie plans to continue to ensure the eventual turnover of the other properties as well. Mr. Pinkerton said the city plans to continue to seek the other land as well.

But the “fair market value,” stipulation for the transfer means the conversation could go in another direction, Ogdensburg officials said.

City Planning and Development Director Andrea L. Smith said the meaning of “market value” is unclear.

“We have done extensive reviews of studies that OMH funded to evaluate the value of that property,” she said. “They have all concluded that the property is really worthless.”

Mr. Pinkerton said that in 1999 and 2002 the state tried and failed to sell the property. “The state said they had no value,” he said.

Ms. Smith said city officials hope to negotiate the price with the state.

If the city does end up taking over the property, Mr. Pinkerton said, the city will establish a revolving fund with the money generated by selling lots to businesses that the city can use to develop more land in the future.

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