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July 7, 2021 - 10:13am

Opponents of rezoning of land surrounding Le Roy Food & Tech Park area prepared to present their case

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Eight homeowners along Lake Street Road (Route 19), Randall Road and West Bergen Road – streets that border land earmarked for rezoning by the Le Roy Town Board -- have signed a petition opposing such a move and plan to bring their concerns to a public hearing Thursday night.

The public hearing is scheduled for 7 o’clock in the courtroom of the Le Roy Town Hall at 48 Main St.

Eric Raines Jr. and Annie Watkins, owners of the former Olmsted Manor on Route 19, north of the Village of Le Roy, are leading the fight to prevent the board from changing the zoning from R-2 (Residential) to Industrial, citing a county land map that shows the 185 acres in question are for agricultural use.

“We also believe that the town’s Comprehensive Plan has this area set aside for green (agricultural) use,” said Raines, who along with Watkins purchased the no_rezone_1.jpghistoric 2,900-square-foot colonial house that sits on 14 acres (mostly woods and including an orchard and small pond) last November.

Raines said the majority of the soil of the seven privately owned parcels targeted for rezoning – and possibly to be part of an eventual sale to Great Lakes Cheese as the future site of a $500 million processing plant – is of the highest quality.

“Most of that soil is ranked as A-1,” he said, referring to information from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. “To say that it would be better suited as a parking lot, I don’t believe so.”

Le Roy Town Supervisor James Farnholz, however, said rezoning to Industrial follows guidance found in a 2017 revision of the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

“The Comprehensive Plan is a guide and in that plan is the goal to develop industry along the Route 19 corridor; it was adopted in 2017,” Farnholz said. “One of the things that has caused confusion is that (people think) the property that we’re considering rezoning is agricultural property, and that is not the case.”

Farnholz said that some of the land has been farmed, “but it is R-2, which means it has been open for farming-related activities, churches and other things. They could even put a mobile home park back there.”

“What we want to do is two things – make it contiguous with the (Genesee County) Economic Development Corp. property that’s already there (the 75-acre Le Roy Food & Tech Park) and since it’s completely ringed by smart growth, it would be consistent with our Comprehensive Plan and it would be consistent with the other property around it,” he explained. “And the other side (east side) of Route 19 is already (zoned) Industrial.”

Several property owners in the vicinity of the Le Roy Food & Tech Park, which is owned by the GCEDC, reportedly have been received offers for their land by Great Lakes Cheese representatives in case the Ohio-based company goes forward with relocating from Allegany County to Genesee County.

Phone calls to one of those property owners by The Batavian were not returned at the time of the posting of this story.

Farnholz said he expects to see some of the property owners who have been contacted by the cheese manufacturer at Thursday’s public hearing.

Raines, who was not approached by Great Lakes Cheese, said he anticipates the other homeowners who signed the petition to be at the meeting.

“The only landowners that were contacted were the ones that have land that interests the company,” he said. “If I was offered up to four times the assessed value, we might not be having this conversation.”

Raines and Watkins also said they believe that Great Lakes Cheese would be asking for a truck deceleration lane just a few hundred feet south of their home along Route 19, on the right-of-way owned by the NYS Department of Transportation.

That is all “rumor and conjecture” at this point as there has been no word from DOT, Farnholz said.

As far as Great Lakes Cheese coming to Le Roy, Farnholz said the company is “still considering the logistics” of such a move.

“The problem with all of this is that it’s out of the municipality's hands,” he said. “The big things go to the DOT and the DEC (NYS Department of Environmental Conservation), and then electric and gas. The DOT and the DEC are the two big players … and there are a lot of steps before any industry moves in anywhere.”

Previously: County planners take no action as Route 19 resident objects to Town of Le Roy's rezoning proposal

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Photo at top: Eric Raines of 8564 Lake Street Road (Route 19), Le Roy, on his property to the west of his home. Photos at bottom: Field behind the Raines' property; view from the front of Raines' home, looking south. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

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