Though the Lansing community’s request to have NYSEG’s auction for the Bell Station property to be cancelled was met last month, the future of the land’s ownership is still uncertain.
“NYSEG cancelling the auction does not clearly indicate whether they still intend to sell,” Town attorney Guy Krogh said at a town council meeting on Sept. 29. “Maybe they just pulled it off the market again because it became controversial. Maybe they pulled it to let things settle and to determine a better way to go. Maybe they’re engaging counsel. Maybe they want to start discussions with DEC and land trust.”
Thus, Krogh believes it would be beneficial for the council to seek outside counsel for how it can assure the ownership transition process leads in a direction that is in line with the town’s ultimate goal for the property, that being establishing it as public access conservation land.
“Since we don’t know what it means, and since it’s quite possible that the land could be put back on the market in some way, I still think there’s value in understanding what your options are, even though the possibility of an actual Section 70 hearing has now been made either more remote or postponed for a number of months,” Krogh said.
The council invited energy/utility consultant Clement Nadeau to its meeting this past Wednesday to discuss possibly hiring Nadeau for his services. (Nadeau used to be the Senior Vice President of Operations at National Grid from 2001 to 2007.) Nadeau offered his take on how the town can find a seat at the table and make sure its voice is heard during the negotiations between all of the parties involved (NYSEG, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Parks Department, Public Service Commission, Cayuga Power Plant and Finger Lakes Land Trust).
“In my mind, we can take the approach of actually [being the] host of that set of negotiations or work with the county to host those negotiations,” Nadeau said. “But the more we push it, I think that’s the best option for us. Ultimately though, whatever that outcome of that negotiation is has to be approved by the Public Service Commission under Section 70. So there will be a proceeding after that. My own opinion is we really want to get it all done in the negotiations and promote our position from there. At the end of the day, I think we just got to prioritize what we want the land to be used for, and presumably that means taking pieces of it and saying, ‘This piece, we would like it to be used for ‘X,’’ and prioritize that use.”
Councilwoman Andra Benson asked how much convincing, if at all, will the town need to do for the other parties involved of the importance of protecting the land. Nadeau said that most likely will not be needed.
“A lot of people’s interests won’t be that far off from the town’s,” he said. “I don’t know how much NYSEG really cares about this, I’ll be honest with you. At the end of the day, customers are the ones that own this property. NYSEG bought this property and customers paid for it. By now, the property has been completely depreciated, and again, all of it is owned by the customer. … I’m not sure if NYSEG has a huge vested interest in this, but they have a vested interest in the PSC proceeding, because whether they’re going to lose money or gain money through that process will be decided there.”
Ultimately, the council agreed to hire Nadeau for his services, compensating him up to $7,500.
The council scheduled on its agenda to continue its discussion of a possible moratorium in the rural agricultural district, though before it had the chance to do so Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne abruptly ended the meeting without the typical vote for adjournment, citing that the council will be discussing the matter at a meeting on Oct. 20.
“We have a public hearing on this. We can discuss it then,” LaVigne said. “We already set it, so the meeting is over.”
Councilwoman Bronwyn Losey said the council needs to outline the specifics of the moratorium, but LaVigne reiterated his point as he exited the room.
“We already have this public hearing so we can talk about that at the public hearing,” LaVigne said. “We already set the public hearing, so we’re fine on that.”
The council has since scheduled another special meeting for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 6 to discuss the moratorium as well as the adjourning meeting process.