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West Carthage housing and retail project could spur major growth

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WEST CARTHAGE — The village of West Carthage, home to 2,000 residents, can expect to see huge growth over the next five years if a large rental-housing and retail development proposed by Lundy Development Corp., Carthage, is approved.

Plans for the project, to be situated southwest of North Broad and Franklin streets, include 390 one- to three-bedroom apartments, 150 two-story town homes, a big-box store, a restaurant and numerous other shops and businesses.

The village Planning Board reviewed preliminary plans Wednesday. The board will go over a detailed site plan in September to set the approval process in motion.

Developer Michael Lundy said he hopes to get the project approved in the next 90 days. That could enable the housing developer selected for the project to start building in the fall, while commercial building could break ground in the spring. The entire project could take five to eight years to complete, depending on demand for the housing units, Mr. Lundy said. The town houses would be built last.

Mr. Lundy said he plans to purchase 71 acres from Robert and Ronald Johnson, owners of Johnson Lumber in Carthage, to build the project, contingent upon its approval by the village. The parcel would have to be rezoned from arterial and residential to a planned development district. Ultimately, the village Board of Trustees would have to approve the project.

Though the developer did not put a price tag on the project, he said he will seek a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency and municipal governments to provide a property tax break for the development.

A major housing developer whom Mr. Lundy declined to identify is expected to build the housing portion of the project, he said. Retail construction would be completed by Lunco Corp., which Mr. Lundy owns.

Mr. Lundy has spearheaded the plan with Carthage resident Kent Burto and Rick Caskinette, who owns Caskinette’s Lofink Ford dealership in Carthage.

The three businessmen, all village property owners, began developing the plan last year to provide much-needed housing for Fort Drum families, Mr. Lundy said.

“We looked at about a dozen properties last fall and thought the Johnson property had a lot of advantages,” he said. “Military families see a lot of benefits to being in the Carthage community because it has a very strong school district and low crime. It’s more of a bedroom community compared to Watertown.”

Fifteen acres of commercial land with 12 lots for development will border North Broad Street, while the apartments and town houses would be behind them to the west.

Mr. Lundy said plans will include a big-box retail store, a large restaurant, four other retail buildings and a separate 20,000 square-foot strip mall with about a dozen spaces for smaller businesses.

“Big-box stores are now looking for smaller stores in communities that are around 50,000 square feet, such as Kmart, Walmart and Target,” he said. “A larger store where people can buy clothing is certainly needed in the Carthage community.”

Mr. Lundy said the space designated for a large sit-down restaurant could include any one of the major restaurant franchises that are along Watertown’s Arsenal Street beltway.

The strip mall could include small businesses seeking to lease affordable space, such as a coffee shop, spa or salon.

In addition to local approval, the project also will require a traffic study for the state Department of Transportation, environmental studies and engineering plans.

Planning Board Chairman Ronald J. Blinebry said the board has worked with Mr. Lundy in the past and is confident his plan will enable the board to evaluate how the project will benefit the village.

“This isn’t Mike’s first rodeo,” Mr. Blinebry said. “He knows what (municipalities) are looking for and that’s what he presents. The board will be able to look at the full package for the project to see what it’s going to look like if it’s completed.”

Mr. Blinebry said the board will determine the various ways the project falls in line with the village’s master plan in September.

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