Yates public referendum set for June 20 on land purchase by town park

Photos by Tom Rivers: This trio – from left Bill Jurinich, Steve Colon and Paul Lauricella – circulated a petition signed by about 200 town residents to force a public vote about a land purchase by the town park. The town will ask residents whether it supports using grant funds to acquire 153 acres for $700,000 from NYSEG.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 May 2024 at 2:18 pm

LYNDONVILLE – The Yates Town Board set June 20 as the day for Town of Yates registered voters to say whether the town can acquire 153.3 acres from NYSEG for $700,000. The referendum states the town will use grant funds for the acquisition of a land next to the 6-acre town park on Morrison Road.

The Town Board on March 14 voted to buy 153.3 acres of land from NYSEG for $700,000. Town officials envision the site to stay undeveloped with walking trails.

But town residents Paul Lauricella, Bill Jurinich and Steve Colon circulated petitions wanting the matter to go to a public vote. On April 11 they turned in petitions signed by 200 residents.

Town Supervisor Jim Simon said the petitions and signatures met the threshold to force a public vote. On Thursday he commended the effort of the local citizens to bring the issue to a referendum.

The public vote will be from noon to 8 p.m. at the Town Hall. Simon and the board will have public information meetings about why the board wants to acquire the land for pu lic use. Those meetings will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 6 at the Town Hall and then 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 15 at the town park.

“This is about our kids and grandkids and an opportunity that won’t come around again,” Simon said during Thursday’s board meeting.

The land owned by NYSEG was at one time eyed for a power plant. That project ended up at Somerset.

Town Supervisor Jim Simon is shown near the shore of Lake Ontario at the Yates Town Park in August 2022. He would like to expand public access to the lakefront.

Simon said the land purchase is contingent on grant funds covering the purchase. He acknowedged there will be some ongoing expense for the town with some maintenance and insurance.

The sale would also take about $25,000 in property taxes – town, county, school and fire district – off the tax rolls.

One resident, Bob DeMallie, said he doesn’t see the need for the town to own the NYSEG property.

“I’m opposed to it because I think the cost will be too much,” DeMallie told the Town Board about the ongoing maintenance.

He also thinks the location is isolated and could attract crime.

“I think it will bring out an unwanted dimension of people who will do who knows what,” DeMallie said.

Simon said the land has long been eyed by the town for recreation near the waterfront. It was included in a local waterfront development plan from 2002, Simon said, and a more recent town comprehensive plan.

“We didn’t willy nilly pull this out of a hat,” Simon said.

Paul Lauricella, a Yates resident and the Conservative Party chairman for the county, said he spent about three weeks talking to residents, and collecting signatures for the petition. He worries about the ongoing cost to taxpayers.

“This is pure legacy-building at the taxpayers’ expense,” Lauricella said after the meeting on Thursday evening. “The public has hand enough of politicans taking tax-paying properties off of the tax rolls. The bottom line is this: your taxes will go up to maintain this forever.”