A bill included in this years 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 of Ogdensburg.
Were pleased, City Manager John M. Pinkerton said Monday. We think this is a good start.
That start could also 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 transfers 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 centers Children and Youth Facility.
The city of Ogdensburg is hoping 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 that would be only undeveloped and non-contaminated waterfront property in the city.
The plan would ultimately 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 Compo, spokeswoman for Mrs. Ritchie said, The inclusion of this first parcel is kind of a down payment.
Ms. Compo said Mrs. Ritchie plans on continuing to ensure the eventual turnover of the other properties as well. Mr. Pinkerton said the city plans on continuing to seek the other land as well.
But the fair market value, stipulation for the transfer means the conversation could go another direction, Ogdensburg officials said.
City Planning and Development Director Andrea L. Smith said the city hoped to get the property transferred free and clear.
However, Ms. Smith said, We dont feel this is a game changer.
How fair market value is defined is up in the air, Ms. Smith said.
What is market value? We have done extensive reviews of studies that OMH funded to evaluate the value of that property, Ms. Smith 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 are Hoping that we will be able to have negotiations with the state and discuss [the price] further.
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.
As we take over, Mr. Pinkerton said, we would set aside the money and make a revolving fund. Then we would start to attack the properties that were abandoned or are deteriorating.
Mr. Pinkerton said this first proposal to sell 45 acres to the city is a conversation starter. We want to be part of that conversation. We now have the state listening to us.