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Lisbon is anxious to sell NYPA land

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LISBON - With the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by landowners against the New York Power Authority, the Town Council anxiously awaits the agency’s next move to sell the remaining 32 acres of land once owned by the state along the St. Lawrence River.

The land, which was orginially acquired by NYPA in 1957 through eminent domain during construction of the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project, was the subject of a legal battle between the Power Authority and landowners Alice L. Putney and Mahlon T. Clements that was dismissed Thursday.

The lands in questions are situated along Route 37 between Keystone and Brown Church roads.

A previous lawsuit by the two landowners challenging the legality of the 1957 land acquisition was dismissed. In 2009, Mr. Clements appealed the dismissal in state Appellate Supreme Court in Albany.

On Thursday, the Court of Appeals ruled that NYPA’s acquisition of the property was “reasonable and necessary for the construction of the project.”

The ruling also states that the appeal, which was filed about 52 years after the land was acquired, was not timely.

Mr. Clements declined to comment on the ruling, but said he is considering another appeal.

In 2002, after the town backed out of the power project boundary while NYPA was seeking new 50-year license to operate the St. Lawrence-FDR hydrodam, the state agreed to relinquish lands it no longer deemed necessary for the project in Lisbon. The settlement stated the land was to be offered to adjoining landowners for two years, but if the landowners did not want to purchase the land in that time, it would be offered for sale to the town.

“So far, the 227 acres of land that were to be conveyed to adjoining landowners and the town of Lisbon have been returned with the exception of approximately 32 acres, which are currently under litigation between NYPA and three landowners,” said NYPA spokeswoman Maura E. Balaban last Wednesday.

“At one point, it was thrown out there that the land, if it was not sold to the landowners, would be given to us,” said Town Council Member Alan D. Dailey at a recent meeting.

Currently, the Town Council is making plans to develop and sell former NYPA lands.

Four out of the five parcels involved in the lawsuit are riverfront property, but they are landlocked, or surrounded by private property. Some town officials say they could be difficult to sell because of how they are situated.

“I agree that it would be difficult to market something that is landlocked, but we need to try to get it on the tax map,” said Council member Nathaniel Putney. “It’s my understanding that the land is being used by people other than the Power Authority, but no one says anything. We can’t bill someone for back taxes and we can’t tax the Power Authority, who owns it.”

As a public entity, NYPA does not pay property taxes.

“This is a great public issue because, if we do end up acquiring these lands, now is the time to get public feedback and consider our options. It’s time to sell it, get it on the tax map and be done with it,” said Mr. Putney.

NYPA officials have declined to discuss the lawsuit.

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