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Lisbon is anxious to sell NYPA land

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LISBON — Following the dismissal of an appeal between landowners and the New York Power Authority last week, town officials face the possibility of buying and selling 32 landlocked acres.

The parcel was part of 227 acres in Lisbon acquired by NYPA from adjoining landowners for the St. Lawrence-FDR Project in 1957. In 2002, the land was to be sold back to the landowners from whom it was purchased.

After appraisals were issued for the land in 2007, landowners Alice L. Putney and Mahlon T. Clements filed a lawsuit against NYPA challenging the legality of the 1957 land acquisition. In 2009, Mr. Clements appealed dismissal of the lawsuit in the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in Albany. After months of scheduling conflicts, the appeal was argued in February.

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.

According to NYPA representative Maura E. Balaban, NYPA declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said it remains “focused on the possibility of transactions with adjoining landowners for the remaining 32 acres.”

Mr. Clements, who also is the lawyer in the case, declined to comment on the ruling, but said he is considering another appeal.

Meanwhile, the town is concerned with lost tax revenue and the implications if the landowners do not buy back the land.

As part of the 2002 relicensing settlement, if landowners refused to repurchase the property, it would be offered for sale to the town. Until now, the lawsuit has delayed any offer to the town.

“As a board, we’ve all said that we don’t want to get into the real estate business, but I think if the land was offered to us, we would need to buy it,” said Councilman Nathaniel Putney.

At their last meeting, council members noted that four out of the five parcels are riverfront property but they are landlocked, or surrounded by private property.

“It would be difficult to market something that is landlocked, but we need to try to get it on the tax map,” said Mr. 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,” said Mr. Putney.

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,” said Mr. Putney. “It’s time to sell it, get it on the tax map and be done with it.”

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