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Great Lakes Cheese

August 20, 2021 - 3:10pm

Le Roy Town Supervisor Jim Farnholz put an athletic competition spin on news that Great Lakes Cheese Co. Inc. will not be building a $500 million, 486,000-square-foot processing facility on land adjacent to the Le Roy Food & Tech Park on Route 19 north of the village.

“You know what, as a coach would say, ‘When somebody goes down, it’s the next man up – that’s how I look at it,” said Farnholz, speaking by telephone today.

Word that the Ohio-based cheese manufacturer is looking elsewhere – reportedly at a 130-acre site in the Cattaraugus County towns of Farmersville and Franklinville – reached Farnholz over the past couple days. However, he said, the Le Roy Town Board has done much to set the stage for another company to come in.

“We’re going to request some of the archaeological work and some of the site planning if Great Lakes is willing to give it to us, since they have already done that,” he said. “And that would be a further incentive for another business to come in because the archaeological and some of those other things are done already.

“We checked a lot of boxes. We’ve got water, gas and electric solved, so I think that makes it more attractive for the next one on deck.”

Although Great Lakes Cheese did not submit a formal application to the Genesee County Economic Development Center to review its site plan or to request tax incentives, company representatives did check out the location and talked to individual landowners about the possibility of selling their property.

REZONING FOR FUTURE EXPANSION

Also, on July 8, the town board unanimously voted to rezone seven parcels totaling 185 acres in the north of the Le Roy Food & Tech Park – between Route 19 (Lake Street Road), West Bergen Road and Randall Road – from R-2 (Residential) to I-2 (Light Industrial) to accommodate future business expansion.

“We did everything we could and we will continue to try and attract business and industry,” Farnholz said. “In the end, there were some DEC (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation) issues with wastewater, and I think there were some incentives that other municipalities or counties may have offered that financially weren’t available or the best idea for us or the best fit.”

The town board’s decision to rezone the parcels was made despite opposition from homeowners in that area, many of whom spoke at a public hearing prior to the vote.

One of the most outspoken against it was Eric Raines Jr., who with his girlfriend, purchased the historic Olmsted Manor and its 14 acres of woodlands on Lake Street Road. Raines’ contention was that the town’s Future Land Map showed that the area was supposed to remain “agricultural.”

Contacted today, he said, "It is what it is, and I'd like to thank anybody that supported us. I guess I'm going to be able to watch the sunset over the soybeans for at least another day."

A check of the Genesee County PROS Property Search site lists the owners of the rezone parcels as Englerth (four parcels, 123.7 acres); Sam Caccamise Estate (one parcel, 53.5 acres); Stella (one parcel, 2.8 acres), and Falcone (one parcel, 5 acres).

GCEDC OWNS TECH PARK

The GCEDC owns the vacant 71.7-acre Le Roy Food & Tech Park located to the south of all but the Falcone parcel. The park is zoned I-2.

Mark Masse, GCEDC senior vice president of operations, said his agency continues to promote the site to manufacturers, both locally and outside of New York State.

“The GCEDC is always looking for companies to locate and expand their businesses here,” he said. “It is our goal to provide the appropriate acreage and utilities that will enable these companies to pair up their operations.”

According to minutes of a June 24 board meeting of the County of Cattaraugus IDA, Great Lakes Cheese Co. Inc., and Schwab Land Holdings, LLC, applied to that agency “to allow and direct the CCIDA to partner and facilitate the proposed project an action by undertaking certain studies and findings to help achieve shovel ready site status.”

Continuing, the minutes state the facility would preserve 229 jobs and would allow for additional hiring of 200 new employees.

Reportedly, the plant will also require 30,000 more cows from area dairy farms as it will be producing four million gallons of milk per day – twice as much as used at the company’s Cuba Cheese plant in Allegany County.

CCIDA CONSIDERS 25-YEAR PILOT

A letter dated July 27 from Corey Wiktor, CCIDA executive director, acknowledged receipt of the company’s application and request for financial assistance (tax incentives).

Wiktor, returning a phone call from The Batavian, said that while nothing has been finalized, the CCIDA is considering a 25-year Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement proposed by Great Lakes Cheese, as well as sales tax and mortgage tax abatements.

"We have not done that prior, but we have also not been a party to a proposed project of this magnitude," Wiktor said, noting that for every one manufacturing job at the site it could create six more jobs down the supply chain."

He said agency staff is doing its due diligence on the site, including flood plain and traffic studies, soil testing, and environmental and endangered species studies.

"And, like Le Roy, we've gone through some municipal rezoning, if you will. Things are progressing, but we still do not have a confirmed project or investment."

Previously: Le Roy Town Board votes to rezone parcels adjacent to Le Roy Food & Tech Park after hearing residents' concerns

July 9, 2021 - 9:27am

The Le Roy Town Board on Thursday night, citing its responsibility to enact measures to attract industry to its community, unanimously voted to rezone 185 acres in the vicinity of the Le Roy Food & Tech Park along West Bergen Road and Route 19 (Lake Street Road).

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See related story below.

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The board’s vote took place at 9:30 p.m. – 90 minutes after the conclusion of a public hearing on the issue of changing the zoning of seven parcels from R-2 (Residential) to I-2 (Light Industrial).

About 45 people attended the meeting at the Town Hall courtroom with the majority of the speakers coming out against the rezoning.

Those in opposition – mainly residents of Lake Street Road, West Bergen Road and Randall Road -- made impassioned pleas to the town board members to leave the R-2 zoning in place, with a couple individuals stating that any change that would open the door to manufacturing would forever destroy “our piece of heaven.”

The board, led by Supervisor James Farnholz, listened and responded – maintaining throughout that rezoning is consistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan and the priority is to encourage business to create jobs and support the town’s property tax base.

In rendering its decision following the regular town board meeting, Councilperson John Armitage made the motion to rezone from R-2 to I-2 – light industrial only – for the parcels covered, and Farnholz seconded the motion.

All five board members voted “yes," with Deputy Supervisor Dave Paddock and councilpersons John Johnson and Ronald Pangrazio voicing their approval.

At that point, Armitage asked Town Attorney Reid Whiting if the town would “still have a lot of say on what can and can not occur there,” to which Whiting responded, “Absolutely … that this was just a preliminary step.”

Farnholz added that multiple public hearings would have to take place – considering all residents that would be affected -- prior to the placement of any industry in that location.

Much of the area residents’ concerns centered on speculation that Great Lakes Cheese, a large manufacturing industry based in Ohio, has approached owners of the parcels in question with potential offers to purchase their land should the company decide to build a $500 million processing plant in the Town of Le Roy.

Eric Raines Jr. of Lake Street Road, who has been outspoken in his opposition of rezoning, said he knows of neighbors who have been contacted by Great Lakes Cheese representatives and even had in his possession a conceptual map of the proposed plant drafted by an architectural firm representing the company.

Last night, Raines (an adjacent landowner) reiterated his viewpoints, stating that he and his girlfriend chose to purchase the historic Olmsted Manor and its 14 acres of woodlands because it was in an area that he believes is meant to stay “agricultural.”

He supported his claim with a Future Land Use map showing that part of the town colored green for agriculture.

“We found the town Comprehensive Plan and there are a couple maps published in (that plan),” he said. “One is a future use map; this is the future intended use of the land of Le Roy. This assures us that the land surrounding the manor was going to remain agricultural land. The existing land map said it was going to be agricultural and it is agricultural, and that future use map also said agricultural – green.”

Raines said that he found that this plan would be adopted until 2029, and that he decided to renovate the property with that in mind.

He also said that Farnholz has stated that the rezoning was not being done specifically for Great Lakes Cheese, and that the current R-2 zoning does support agriculture and farm-related activities.

“I think the town supervisor and those in favor of this rezone know the ‘super plant’ manufacturing facility is a wild stretch of the definition of farming-related activities,” he said. “If this according to the town supervisor is an agricultural industry, I ask … ‘What is considered a farming-related industry?”

Raines drew applause when he brought up that the town board had the opportunity to rezone the parcels over the past four years, but only moved to do so after Great Lakes Cheese entered the picture.

“Great Lakes Cheese offers $20,000 an acre. Two weeks later, the town submits to the county a rezoning,” he said. “… This rezone is to support Great Lakes Cheese.”

Farnholz shot back, however, stating that Raines – in a story on The Batavian earlier this week – said that “if you were offered four times the value for your property, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” Raines then interjected, “I said we might not.”

The supervisor continued: “In the Comprehensive Plan it also states that additional economic development opportunities that arise in an around the Thruway, I-490 Interchange area, consistent with the county’s Smart Growth Plan and coordinate to ensure direct competition with existing town and village businesses.”

Whiting then said that the R-2 zone does support farm-related activities.

“The zoning ordinance is supposed to be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, so this long-term goal is consistent with the contemplated change in zoning,” he said.

Undeterred, Raines said the Smart Growth Plan indicated the land to be rezoned is not considered “a developmental area” and that it is some of the best farmland in the county and warrants protection.

Farnholz countered, saying that the parcels along the Route 19 corridor “could be paved right now; it could be a mobile home park in a permitted use as it stands.”

At the outset of the public hearing Farnholz outlined the permitted uses in an R-2 district, which include single-family detached dwellings, churches and other religious buildings, parks and playgrounds, home occupation uses, home and farm gardens, agricultural buildings, garages, carports, swimming pools, tennis courts, and other larger, business-type structures with a special use permit.

Before closing, Raines submitted a petition against rezoning, signed by 10 residents of the three roads, and held up the conceptual map that he said was circulated by Great Lakes Cheese – “bullying the landowners into thinking that they had no option … it’s out of my hands, what can I do.”

Addressing the board, he drew another round of applause as he concluded, “You are a local government. You are here to protect us.”

Others who spoke during the public hearing, which lasted for an hour and 20 minutes, included the following:

Rebecca Hiler, Lake Street Road -- Stating that her property would be “completely surrounded by industrial,” she said she has done much work on her property. “This is my Zen, this is my home, this is my heaven, and you guys want to plop industrial right around me … How would you like this next to your house?”

Orion Hiler, Lake Street Road – Rebecca’s son, he said he has “felt blessed” to live at that location, having “escaped” Rochester and growing up in Le Roy. “I just see it (the aesthetics) ripped away and have this metallic monstrosity here, right in my backyard,” he said. “Having it rezoned so that semi-trucks passing in at all odd hours of the night to pick up cheese.”

Shane Hegeman, Lake Street Road – He said he opposed, citing concerns about the smell of a cheese plant. “Do you see anyone living around O-At-Ka Milk (Products in Batavia)?” he asked. “No, because that doesn’t belong in a neighborhood. We don’t need this.”

Charles Flynn, Randall Road – Noting that he is a real estate agent, he mentioned that many people in the Town of Byron are upset over the large solar system that is planned for that community and questioned whether property values would go down if the parcels were rezoned Industrial. “That’s why I question this Comprehensive Plan to try to adjust to the R-2 from the I-2 zone,” he said. “I don’t think we should make that change.”

Sarah Krzemien, Warsaw Road – She said she understands both sides of the issue, but questioned whether the town’s demographics would support the number of employees for a large industry in that area. “It just seems unnecessary, and none of us will benefit,” she said.

Kathy Glucksman, Randall Road – A longtime resident, she said that she and her husband recently refinanced their home to make improvements, and would be disappointed to find out that they would be surrounded by this industry. “It would decrease our property values, our quality of living and I believe there would be various health effects,” she said. “I urge you to protect us. If you look at our property, we are very vulnerable.”

Carol Konarski, Randall Road – A Randall Road resident for 46 years, she said she and her husband desired the peace and quiet and privacy of country living. “If you make this area an industrial area, that will be gone – it will be completely wiped out,” she said. “It’s just a little 100 by 200 (foot) plot, but it is our piece of heaven …” She added that her husband, who is deceased, would be “heartbroken if our dream that became a reality was destroyed.”

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Other issues brought up focused on increased traffic on Route 19, noise, odor, glare and screening and setbacks from residential properties as a result of large-scale manufacturing. One individual wondered if the rezoning could be put to a vote of the residents.

Farnholz said that the matter is not subject to public referendum and, responding to a comment questioning the board’s level of concern, said that they all are on the board because they do care about the community.

“We’ve taken the time to run for elected positions and all of us represent everybody in the community on a variety and multitude of issues,” he said. “At the conclusion of this hearing tonight, we’ll be jumping into a solar issues … There’s reduced funding from Genesee County. We lost almost $700,000 last year in revenue sharing from the county.

“Do we care? Your taxes have not gone up. They went up 1 cent last year … So, we do care.”

July 9, 2021 - 9:24am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Great Lakes Cheese, Town of Le Roy, GCEDC.

After discussing the possibility of selling 2.8 acres of their property on Lake Street Road (Route 19) to Great Lakes Cheese, Chris and Gina Stella said they have decided to retain control of that parcel.

Speaking after Thursday night’s public hearing on rezoning 185 acres next to the Le Roy Food & Tech Park, Chris Stella said he was approached by a representative of the Genesee County Economic Development Center about selling some of his land.

“Joe Macaluso stopped over and said that Great Lakes Cheese might have some interest in the 2.8 acres, so I talked to my wife, Gina, about it,” Stella said. “He (Macaluso) said that they would offer the same thing that they we’re offering everybody else, but I’ll be honest with you, nobody wants it in their backyard – and I didn’t either.”

Stella said he didn’t blame other nearby property owners for entering into potential land deals with the Ohio-based manufacturer, which has been identified as inquiring into the Town of Le Roy site as a location for a new $500 million processing plant.

“But, do I want it? I never wanted it. We talked about it a little bit,” Stella added. “Their deal was … that they wanted to put up a berm to protect us from it, so we really didn’t have to see anything. But, my attorney actually got us a map of what they wanted to do, and I think the deal closer for us was that they wanted to put in a deceleration lane starting right in my front yard.”

(Town Supervisor James Farnholz said the deceleration lane topic is “conjecture” at this point, and that the state Department of Transportation would have the final say on traffic issues.)

Stella said different people have told him that anywhere from 85 to 120 trucks per day would come in and out of the plant, and that they run at all hours.

“All day and all night I’m going to be hearing Jake brakes,” he said. “That was a deal closer for us. At least if we have that 2.8 acres of land, we can kind of do what we want to do with it. They can do whatever they want. We decided to hold on to it.”

When asked how much was offered, he said, “They didn’t offer us anything. I heard that it was around $20,000 an acre, but I’m not sure about that. I heard that number floating around somewhere.”

July 7, 2021 - 10:13am

eric_raines.jpg

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.

June 11, 2021 - 9:53am

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A Lake Street Road (Route 19) resident has come out against the proposed rezoning of seven parcels of land meant to expand the Le Roy Food & Tech Park, claiming that changing it from Residential to Industrial contradicts the Town of Le Roy’s Comprehensive Plan and will prevent him from “the intended use and enjoyment” of his property.

Eric Baines Jr., speaking at Thursday night’s Genesee County Planning Board meeting via Zoom videoconferencing, said that in November he bought what is known as the Olmsted Manor, a 2,900-square-foot colonial house that is near the 75-acre industrial park on Route 19 and Randall Road owned by the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

He said he did not favor a referral submitted to the planning board by the Town of Le Roy to rezone seven parcels totaling about 185 acres to possibly set the stage for a cheese manufacturer, specifically the Ohio-based Great Lakes Cheese, to build a $500 million plant on land adjacent to the park.

Reportedly, Great Lakes Cheese officials have contacted landowners with purchase offers to expand the park to meet the company’s needs.

“At the time when we did our research, the 2017 published Town Comprehensive Plan said that the current use map did not reflect Industrial zoning as well as the future map does not show Industrial zoning surrounding – they’re both Agricultural,” Raines said. “Given that both maps reflect that, we (he and his girlfriend) made the decision to buy this house.”

Looking to Upgrade the Property

Raines said that “use and enjoyment of our land (14 acres) will be jeopardized by this rezoning as we intend fix up the place.”

“This is an historical house, which we’re proud to own … in an historic district in Le Roy,” he said. “We wanted to grow our own food here and largely be independent. To say we are against the industrialization of the agricultural land behind this is not to just push it behind me and go somewhere else.

“We are opposed to it, in general, as to be reflected by the vegetable garden we put in almost immediately. If anybody goes by on Route 19, I am sure you have seen that the place has not been taken care of over the past 50 years, but it is now because we’re here.”

Raines said his plans for the property include recreational hunting, expanding his garden and putting up bat houses to keep the ecosystem healthy.

“This (rezoning and siting of the cheese factory) will trigger a laundry list of chain events that will prohibit any of what we hope to do,” he said.

Responding to a question from Planning Board Member Eric Biscaro, Raines said his property extends right to the line proposed for the cheese plant. He then brought up issues of smell and noise.

“For a $500 million plant, to say there won’t be noise (is not true),” he said. “The electromagnetic radiation alone coming from this plant is going be astronomical, and not something that we had any intention of being surrounded by.”

He said this action does not seem fair, believing that the comprehensive plan serves as a land use document governed by state law and is good through 2029.

Board Only Looking at Rezoning Referral

County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari said that last night’s referral only addresses the rezoning change, not the proposed cheese manufacturing plant.

“The planning board is only considering a rezoning request, which can be made with or without a project,” he said. “If it does get rezoned and a project does come to fruition, we will be reviewing all environmental impacts, including odor and noise, lighting, anything you may think of as part of that project, which would be a separate referral.”

Oltramari sought to clarify the zoning procedure, stating that the comprehensive plan and future land use maps serve as “guidance” but do not restrict municipalities or draw specific boundaries for rezoning.

“You have points that are definitely valid,” he said in response to Raines. “It’s just I wouldn’t go as far as saying that because that area is (zoned) Agriculture, that it should stay Agriculture until 2029. In theory, actually, the town board could amend the future land use plan … through a public process … before 2029 and completely overhaul the comprehensive plan in two years or something like that.”

Raines contended that neighbors who own a horse farm would be “stripped of their horse pasture if this goes through,” and mentioned that he heard talk of eminent domain, which is the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation.

He also said some of his other neighbors are against rezoning and the potential 480,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.

Masse: No Talk of Eminent Domain

Mark Masse, GCEDC senior vice president of Operations, quickly disputed the eminent domain claim, stating that the agency’s board of directors will not participate in that process.

“We have not done it, we have not proposed it, we have never brought it up, and we have never spoken about it,” he said.

Planning Board Member Bob Bennett, referring to eminent domain, noted that GCEDC won’t be the owners of the properties on track to be rezoned.

Contacted this morning, Le Roy Town Supervisor Jim Farnholz disputed the eminent domain claim – “a private entity can not move forward on eminent domain,” he said – and that to his knowledge, “there has been no resistance whatsoever from landowners who have been approached (by Great Lakes Cheese.”

“I know that some of the neighbors have sold significant property to Great Lakes Cheese and that the Falcone Funeral Home is no part of this since they operate under a special use permit in an R-2 zone,” he said. “In fact, changing to an I-2 zone would give him a sense of security for his business.”

Farnholz also mentioned that Raines has a 12-acre buffer behind his house “that is completely grown in, so he wouldn’t see the project” and that all odor, noise and wastewater issues have to meet New York State Department of Environmental Conservation standards.

Le Roy Planners to Meet on Tuesday

The supervisor said that the Le Roy Planning Board will address the issue next Tuesday and that the town board has scheduled a public hearing on the matter for July 8.

As far as the county planning board, it took no action as a motion to approve the rezoning referral died for a lack of second, and a subsequent motion for disapproval did not gain the necessary five votes.

Oltramari said it now goes back to the Town of Le Roy, which can act without a recommendation from county planners.

The planning department had recommended approval since the comprehensive plan adopted by the Town of Le Roy in 2017 identifies this area in its Future Land Use Plan as Agriculture and adjacent to Industrial. Thus, Oltramari wrote, it can be argued that rezoning the property to an industrial use that supports agriculture is consistent with the plan should pose no significant countywide or intercommunity impact.

Earlier in the meeting, Masse said his view was that the town was “trying to be proactive – trying to be ahead a little bit.”

“Obviously, our board approved a purchase and sale agreement for one business (BioWorks Inc., of Victor) at the Le Roy Food & Tech Park that’s existing there – to take 60 of the 75 acres. I think the town is seeing that hopefully will be successful and is trying to be proactive by rezoning some of the other parcels there to help grow that,” he said.

Prospective Company Talking to Landowners

Masse said GCEDC wouldn’t be purchasing the other parcels to be rezoned.

“At this point in time, the companies that have been interested in it have been talking – we put them directly in touch with the property owners,” he said.

He added that BioWorks would be looking at West Bergen Road and Route 19 as entrances and exits.

Bennett mentioned that if the cheese factory was to come in with 500 jobs, “that’s a lot of traffic to come out to West Bergen Road and Route 19.”

“If a company were to locate there, on those back parcels, they would probably come in off of (Route) 19 – that would be the main traffic,” Masse replied. “That would be a shared entrance for our park as well as those back parcels. And that’s going to be driven by the Department of Transportation as well, whether there would be any improvements required there or not.”

Masse said BioWorks is creating 30 jobs but has yet to apply for (tax) incentives.

“Their truck traffic would be like FedEx and UPS delivery trucks,” he said. “It wouldn’t be anything heavy, and from a water standpoint, that particular project plans on recycling all rainwater … and will have very little to no municipal use.”

He added that GCEDC is looking at different options to supply natural gas to the property.

Zoning map at top shows the current zoning, left, and the proposed zoning -- changing the parcels in yellow (Residential) to light purple (Industrial) next to the Le Roy Food & Tech Park.

June 4, 2021 - 10:10am

Representatives of Ohio-based Great Lakes Cheese have visited the Le Roy Food & Tech Park in recent days, exploring the possibility of building a $500 million processing plant at the location off Route 19 and West Bergen Road.

While an officer of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, which owns the park, would not confirm or deny contact with company leadership, Le Roy Town Supervisor James Farnholz this morning told The Batavian that Great Lakes Cheese personnel have been at the 75-acre site.

“Yes, they have been out there and have been in contact, but I don’t know what the status of their negotiations are with landowners. That’s out of our realm,” Farnholz said.

Great Lakes Cheese has been in the news lately as it was looking to expand its operation by locating the new plant in Allegany County, where is already has the Empire Cheese facility in Cuba. Its plans, however, may have been scrapped due to several issues, including a controversial eminent domain seizure of farmland.

Calls to Heidi Eller, company chairman of the board, have not been returned.

A 480,000-square-foot ‘Super Plant’

A report by WGRZ-TV stated the new plant would consist of 480,000 square feet and would mirror other “super plants” owned by GLC in Hiram, Ohio; Plymouth, Wis.; Fillmore, Utah; and Manchester, Tenn.

It also stated that “wherever it ends up would still be eligible for around $200 million in tax incentives over 20 years.”

Mark Masse, senior vice president of operations for the GCEDC, said agency policy prohibits him from commenting until a project application has been submitted.

“We can not comment on projects that may or may not be coming here unless we have an application in hand,” he said. “That has been our stance for a very long time.”

Masse did speak to a referral filed Wednesday with the Genesee County Planning Board by the Town of Le Roy to rezone seven parcels along Route 19 and Randall Road – totaling 185 acres – from R-2 (Residential) to I-2 (Industrial).

Rezoning Lines Up With Town’s Plan

The rezoning would conform with the town’s comprehensive plan’s goal of creating additional industrial uses and, according to documents filled out by Farnholz, “to address one of the town’s weaknesses – loss of jobs/commercial base.”

“Over the years, we have seen some interest in additional property and I think the town is just trying to be proactive to match the zoning with the Le Roy Food & Tech Park in case the project seeks more acreage than is available there,” Masse said. “Our Ag Park (on East Main Street Road in Batavia) is almost sold out at this point, so the larger acreage projects wouldn’t be able to locate there.”

According to the referral, by rezoning the parcels (mainly farmland), it would set the stage for “a potential opportunity for a cheese manufacturing plant (and) would conform to the comprehensive plan.”

Although the referral mentions “a cheese manufacturing plant,” Farnholz said that everything is at the inquiry stage.

Farnholz: Nothing is on the Table

“Nothing is on the table at this point and we are not making specific preparation for anybody. Great Lakes Cheese has made inquiries but we don’t have anything definite. We’re not doing anything for Great Lakes Cheese,” he said.

Farnholz said that land in question should have been rezoned to Industrial years ago to match the property owned by the GCEDC. He also said that a separate parcel, which has a funeral home on it and is operating under a special use permit, would be rezoned to Industrial as well.

“This has been on the table for quite some time,” he said. “Our discussions over the comprehensive plan to expand industrial development along the Route 19 corridor predates anything that is happening now.”

The supervisor said that the town has not spent any money, noting that all of the properties would have to be purchased by Great Lakes Cheese or any other business, with the exception of the GCEDC, which owns the 75 acres off West Bergen Road.

“Any remaining acreage would have to be privately purchased,” he said.

Setting the Stage for Development

He said that if the Great Lakes Cheese plant did not come to Le Roy, rezoning the properties “would just make it more practical for future industrial development. But, again, this is all contingent upon people willing to sell their property.”

The park, which has been in existence for about four years, does not have any businesses yet, Farnholz said.

“Right now, it’s just farmland. The GCEDC leases out their acreage to farmers and the rest of it is just woods and farmland. Down by Randall Road, there’s a group that is grinding up wood and making mulch – that’s the only thing that resembles a business,” he said.

While not a done deal, a $500 million venture in Le Roy would make a significant impact on the local economy.

“Having read many of the articles talking about the project in Allegany County, they were talking about a $500 million plant that would employ up to 400 people, so I would welcome that with open arms,” Farnholz said.

BioWorks to Purchase 60 Acres

In a related development, Masse reported that the GCEDC Board of Directors Thursday approved a purchase and sale agreement with BioWorks Inc. to buy 60 acres at the Le Roy Food & Tech Park for $2.4 million.

“They still would need to forward an application for incentives, which I believe they will be bringing forward,” Masse said. “Last night’s action allows the company to do their due diligence on the site prior to closing to ensure their project can be completed.”

BioWorks Inc. is a national company with a regional office in Victor, is looking to expand its operation.

According to its website, it develops and markets biologically based solutions for customers in the horticulture and specialty agriculture markets. Its products – effective alternatives or additions to traditional chemical programs -- support plant nutrition, disease control, insect control and soil amendment.

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