Town of Johnstown set to consider zoning change for Ossip farm


The exterior of Johnstown Town Hall, located at 2753 Route 29 in Johnstown, is seen on April 14, 2021.

TOWN OF JOHNSTOWN – The Johnstown Town Board is preparing to conduct a public hearing on a proposed zoning change requested by the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth for two of the three “Ossip farm” properties located off Route 30A across the street from the Johnstown Industrial Park.

Johnstown Supervisor Jack Wilson said several years ago the town government had been working on a plan to establish a business park at the location of the former Ossip farm, but was never able to contact the entity in control of the parcel.

“We could never got an option on that property, the guy that owns it, Crossroad Realty, that outfit is located in California, and they were very difficult to get a hold of,” he said. “Within that entire complex down there …. there are two little parcels that are not part of the zone change (conducted years ago that allowed the land to be in the M-1 manufacturing zone).”

Wilson said the smallest parcel is about less than an acre in size and one other portion is about 12 acres, and both are still zoned R-2 for residential activity, while the bigger parcel, approximately 80 acres in size is zoned for M-1 manufacturing.

“(CRG President) Ron (Peters) was able to get an option on (the bigger parcel) and get ahold of those people, to his credit, and in order to go forward he needs to get those two little parcels located within that bigger parcel,” Wilson said. “If he wants to get a project going there, he can’t still have two little parcels there zoned for residential.”

Peters made a short presentation to the Johnstown Town Board at its Jan. 23 meeting. He provided the Town Board with letters from the Town of Johnstown Planning Board recommending the change and the Fulton County Planning Board showing it has ruled there is no adverse effect from the change.

Peters did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.

U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-NY, submitted three economic development projects for Fulton County totaling $16.5 million in federal funding as part of the 2023 federal budget. One of the projects was $500,000 to help create a Fulton County CRG Industrial Park Development. The description of the project — posted to — said the Fulton County CRG has determined the county’s existing industrial parks are now full and is “… seeking to create additional shovel ready industrial park space that will attract new businesses or assist existing businesses in their expansion efforts.”

There have been local government squabbles over the development of the former Ossip farm for at least the last 21 years. In April of 2002 the Greater Johnstown School District school board voted down a proposal to include the farm into an expanded economic development zone, in part because the land is located in the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District. However, the GJSD board later reversed course in May 2022, voting 7-1 to include the parcels in the zone, with, now deceased, board member Russ Martin voting against it.

During the Jan. 23 Johnstown Town Board meeting board member Tim Rizzo was the only member to vote against moving forward with a public hearing on the zoning change.

Rizzo said he’s not necessarily against the CRG trying to develop a business park at the Ossip farm, but he’s upset the town board spent time and resources on attempting the same project and then stopped pursuing it.

“I don’t have any issue with the rezoning, but why was the town working three years ago to own these properties and then all of sudden went quiet?” he said.

Wilson said he’s not concerned with whether the town or CRG ultimately controls the business park.

“We don’t have any shovel ready sites and that site is ready,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t matter to me, I’d rather have CRG do it. It’ll be up to them to follow through and take care of everything, the town won’t have to. Any (Payment in Lieu of taxes) programs or anything, we would get the benefit.”

“How do you do it when the city of Johnstown says there’s no water?” Rizzo asked.

On Wednesday Rizzo explained that he had been told, during the summer of 2022, that the city of Johnstown’s then independently elected Waterboard would not approve extending any existing water lines, even within the city’s boundaries, due to water capacity problems.

The Town of Johnstown’s Water District 1 project, paid for with approximately $800,000 of the town’s U.S. American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARPA) federal grant, extends municipal water service from the city of Gloversville from Gloversville to town hall and additional town residents on Route 29, but also includes an additional water connection between Gloversville and the City of Johnstown.

Travis Mitchell, the Town of Johnstown’s engineer for the water line extension project, and Gloversville Water Superintendent Anthony Mendetta have explained that the additional water line connection to the city of Johnstown could make it easier for Gloversville to supply the city of Johnstown with water in case of an emergency.

Gloversville helped supply the city of Johnstown with four-and-a-half million gallons of water per day during two major water leaks over the past six months between December 2021 and May 2022.

Rizzo said he’s argued the water line connection between the city of Johnstown and Gloversville for the Route 29 water extension could be done at less expense if the line emerged from the city of Johnstown’s system and then extended east. He said his parents own land on Route 29 that is within the city of Johnstown limits and could connect to the water lines if they were built they way he’s suggested, but the plan to send Gloversville water extension back west bypasses his parents property. He said he doesn’t understand why water capacity was a problem when he wanted the lines extended from the city of Johnstown going east on Route 29, but water capacity won’t be a problem for a business park on the Ossip farm property.

“They fought me over my parents’ connection to the city of Johnstown, you completely bypassed it, and they’re combining all of the water systems,” Rizzo said.

During the Jan. 23 meeting Peters said he doesn’t think water capacity will be a problem.

“We have Smart Waters as well too,” Peters said, referencing the city of Gloversville’s agreement to sell water throughout Fulton County.

Wilson said another factor in supplying water to a potential business park on the Ossip farm goes back to a deal the Town of Johnstown made with the city of Johnstown in the 1990s.

“There’s a written contract that says, in return (for the annexed land for the city of Johnstown) if the town wanted to develop any part of that Ossip property (the city of Johnstown) would provide the infrastructure for it, water, sewer and such,” he said. “The contract is in place, and (the parcel is located) in the Town of Johnstown, so we have a guarantee of water and sewer to come from the city of Johnstown.”

Wilson said the additional water line connection from the town’s Route 29 water extension project into the city of Johnstown was included in the bid specifications for the project, but he said it will require the approval of all of the municipalities involved and he doesn’t know if that will ever happen. He said Gloversville will pay for the extension if it does happen. He said he doesn’t think water capacity will be an issue for an Ossip farm business park if one is ever built.

“In reality, for an individual project like that I don’t think it would matter too much, we’ll probably get the water,” he said.

Wilson said another issue in play is the city of Johnstown’s prohibition against fluoride entering into its water system, which he thinks is mostly concerned with residential properties. He said the city of Gloversville uses fluoride and a recent survey of the city’s residents showed they want the flouride to remain in the water.

“Outside of an emergency situation, I don’t know what kind of water Johnstown would be willing to take from Gloversville,” Wilson said.

By Jason Subik

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