Town balks at property annexation

JOHNSTOWN – Town officials say they are flatly rejecting a revenue-sharing arrangement proposed by the cities of Johnstown and Gloversville that would have allowed land to be annexed into either of them in exchange for sharing a portion of tax revenues.

The cities’ proposal was the latest formal attempt at an agreement that would have opened up town land to potentially lucrative development in commercial corridors, including along Route 30A near the Walmart Supercenter under construction in Gloversville.

Development in the town is more restricted because most properties lack access to municipal water and sewer. Both cities have to agree to sewer hookups at town sites, leaving annexation as the only other option for town property owners.

“Thank you for getting us to start somewhere, but no thank you to that plan,” says the town’s statement, which was read to officials by Councilwoman Beth Schlocika at a meeting with representatives from all three municipalities last week.

“We’ve been talking about it for quite a while, and we’ve had several different opinions about what we should do,” Councilman Walt Lane said. “This is the only official one we’ve decided.”

The town has proposed forging cooperative development agreements in which the cities would approve hooking town property to their municipal water and sewer systems, then charge property owners double the rate or more – as is done with other town properties, including Arterial Plaza and Hannaford, as well as many residences that access Gloversville water.

Officials note the villages of Broadalbin, Fonda, Fultonville and Palatine Bridge have allowed town properties to access their water and sewer to promote development, while still allowing the towns to collect all property and sales tax revenues.

“What they’ve done isn’t complicated, it doesn’t take legislative intervention and no one loses,” the statement said, noting the cities already are missing out on revenue by not selling excess water and sewer capacity.

Both city mayors agreed to talk more with their councils, but neither supports the town’s proposal.

“I don’t think anyone is trying to take advantage of the other municipality. We’re just trying to find common ground where it does make sense, and that’s a very difficult task,” Johnstown city Mayor Sarah Slingerland said. “The complexity of this is enormous, and everyone understands and appreciates it.”

Gloversville Mayor Dayton King said he’s open to other ideas, including sweetening the deal with cash – a “gift” that can legally be given, the comptroller’s office told him, because annexation would be “improving the economy or improving the area as a whole,” the mayor said.

He said he’s talked to Town Board members and thinks one quietly agrees with the cities’ proposal and another would “for the right price.” Since a revenue-sharing deal would need approval by only three Town Board members, he thinks the ground may soften after the November election.

“We have a chance where one of the people who might not be for annexation may be challenged by someone who has been willing to cooperate,” he said, his tense suggesting potential candidates previously involved in town government.

Lane’s seat and the seat of Councilwoman and Deputy Supervisor Tamara Healy are up for re-election in November. Lane said he has not decided whether to seek a third term, and Healy did not return a call seeking comment.

The cities also are watching the outcome of a legal action initiated by Gloversville after the town blocked Stephen Mauro’s bid to have 16 acres of land in the town near the new Walmart site annexed into the city so it could be developed. That case will be reviewed by a panel of state Appellate Court judges, who may choose to decide whether annexation would be in the public’s best interest.

The town and Gloversville already have one revenue-sharing agreement for an area near the new Walmart, which will result in the town’s getting 40 percent of sales and property-tax revenues from sites requiring water and sewer. Town Supervisor Nancy MacVean said that’s enough.

The cities, she said, “always managed to annex what they want. I’m the first supervisor to brace my feet and say no more.”

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