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Proposed racetrack land sells at auction

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Some of the more than 900 acres in Brasher and Norfolk once proposed for an auto racetrack sold at auction Wednesday for timber harvesting and for an unspecific future project, while the rest may be used to grow corn.

The land was split into three parts and purchased by two successful bidders for a total of $280,000, plus back taxes of approximately $60,000, said Richard B. Maltz, vice president of David R. Maltz & Co., which auctioned off the land in Plainview for Kenneth P. Silverman, the court-appointed trustee of the Agape World bankruptcy.

The land became caught up in a Ponzi scheme as Northway Island Associates — developers of what was to be a racetrack and entertainment complex — financed a $2.1 million mortgage through Agape World. The land was an asset of Agape, whose owner, Nicholas Cosmo, pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud charges in 2010 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison for stealing more than $125 million from thousands of investors over five years.

At the auction, Patrick J. Curran, Seaway Timber Harvesting, Massena, bought 350 acres of the land for $70,000 plus back taxes, most of it on Route 420. His company had once owned some of the land, which it had sold to Northway Island with a timber option. Mr. Curran said he never exercised the option as the developers had wanted trees for the proposed golf course.

Northway Island had told Brasher officials it had still hoped to raise money to buy back the land and continue the racetrack and entertainment complex project, but that never happened.

“I have not heard from them in some time,” Brasher Supervisor M. James Dawson said.

The tracts Mr. Curran purchased next to the one he used to own also have timber. The properties are near Curran Renewable Energy, the company’s pellet plant in Massena. Seaway had tried unsuccessfully to buy the entire property when it was offered at auction in Canton in April, but dropped out at $230,000 when the bankruptcy trustee kept raising the bid. With interest and other costs, the lien had grown to $3.6 million.

Mr. Maltz would not identify the buyers as a policy of his company, but Mr. Curran said he recognized the other bidders as Canadians who wanted the land for corn.

Mr. Curran partnered on his purchase with New Jersey entrepreneur Ash Jain. Mr. Jain met with Massena, Brasher and St. Lawrence County representatives earlier this summer to talk about ideas for how the land might be used.

Mr. Jain said the future for the property remains unclear.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” he said. “I’m intrigued by that area. I think the time is ripe for it to take off.”

Mr. Jain said he is interested in finding funding for a study of what might work, perhaps related to a value-added agricultural pursuit, and to help pay for engineering costs.

“We have a lot of ideas,” he said. “With this specific land, we don’t know yet. The eventual use might be farmland.”

Massena Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said that the recent discussion Mr. Jain had with local officials was mostly a catch-all, but that agriculture is a good option. Mr. Gray said he would like to see more locally raised beef available for purchase in area stores, for example.

“We need to get creative,” Mr. Gray said. “We need to look at our roots in agriculture.”

In any case, Northway’s plans seem far removed.

“There isn’t any casino in our plans or NASCAR track,” Mr. Curran said.

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