County agrees to pay SEQR

FONDA — The Montgomery County Legislature Tuesday night voted to authorize spending $33,334 to pay for one third of the cost of an Environmental Impact Statement required for the annexation of land from the town of Mohawk into the city of Johnstown for the purposes of building a proposed regional business park.

Fulton County Board of Supervisors on March 14 authorized a $100,000 contract with Sterling Environmental Engineering P.C. of Latham to prepare a draft/final Environmental Impact Statement to fulfill the New York State Environmental Quality Review process, also known as a SEQR.

Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said Montgomery County is obligated to provide one-third of the cost of the study, with Fulton County and the city of Johnstown each paying a third as part of the cause-sharing clause of the tax-sharing agreement the three entities have entered into to support the creation of the park.

“[Fulton County] is looking to move quickly on this. We hadn’t gotten the exact number until just recently, so I was asked by [Montgomery County Economic Development Director] Ken Rose to include this in tonight’s agenda,” Ossenfort told the legislature. “This was the low bid out of all of the vendors.”

The town of Mohawk has not agreed to a tax-sharing plan for the proposed park, but was granted the status of lead agency by New York state for the annexation process because the land is currently located within the town. As lead agency, Mohawk has required the Environmental Impact Statement for the annexation include the potential environmental impact of the proposed regional business park, which some Fulton County officials have argued is premature at the land annexation stage because it remains unknown what kind of company might fill the park.

Mohawk officials have argued if the environment impact of the park to their town isn’t considered now, while the property is still in Mohawk, Fulton County might never allow consideration of any environmental impact from the business park beyond its own county borders, once the 260 acres are annexed out of Mohawk and into Johnstown. Some Mohawk officials have said they feel Fulton County never considered the potential damage to the village of Fonda and the town of Mohawk from truck traffic from the Walmart Distribution Center built in the 1990s.

Ossenfort said he supports Mohawk’s approach to studying the environmental impacts of the park now before the annexation, although he said he would have fought to have the environmental impacts on Mohawk and Montgomery County included in the study even if it had occurred later in the process of building the park after the annexation.

“I’ve always said from the beginning that I think annexation is likely, based on previous cases — the land-owners are seeking annexation for the purpose of building infrastructure — so my thought has always been that this will likely end in annexation, but this is the important environmental work that needs to be done for the town of Mohawk and all of the entities involved to make their positive or negative declarations,” Ossenfort said. “I think when we look at the environmental analysis we will see the property, known as the potential regional business park, will be one of the most highly sought after large-scale sites in the Northeast. I feel confident about that. I believe the environmental study is going to come back that this should move forward, but with that said, you have to do your homework and get the data. Any environmental review, however lengthy, is appropriate.”

District 4 Legislator Robert Headwell, who lives in Fultonville which is within the town of Mohawk, said he knows some people in the town are against the proposed regional business park, but others feel the area can handle any increased traffic.

“We’re really out of any more large-space to bring in big business. The owners of the property have asked for this to happen,” he said. “There hasn’t really been a lot of comment from people in Fultonville or that area. There has always been concern about the truck traffic, that issue has always come up. There are a lot of trucks, but it always seems to move through. I know some residents in Mohawk close to the area are strongly against it.”

By Patricia Older

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