Last year Dennis money, president of Seneca White Deer, Inc. had a lot of reservations about a potential Seneca County IDAs interest in selling the 7,000 acres associated with the former Seneca Army Depot.
In fact, he was a proponent of the plan, which would have asked for ownership of the property to be moved from the IDA to the Seneca County Board of Supervisors. A plan that was ultimately defeated last spring.
In a letter to supporters Monday morning, Money asked for those who want to see the white deer herd preserved to support the IDAs plan to lease and eventually sell the property to bid winner Earl Martin.
Money asked that supporters of the herd and his organization show up in force at the next meeting of the Seneca County IDA, who will be holding a public hearing on the subject of PILOT agreements to go along with the $900,000 lease.
Money defended the lease concept, which has been subject to extensive criticism since it was first discussed in the fourth quarter of 2016. The lease was adopted in December and will tentatively last one-year, with a possible extension to a second-year, should the property assessment not be lowered within that first year.
The assessment of the property has been the other subject of debate around the former Depot. Due to the property being off the tax roll for so long, it had not been reassessed in nearly two decades. The current assessment sits around $25 million.
As a point of reference, the highest bidder for the property was just over $1 million. The IDA chose the second highest bid, which was Martin’s due to the strength of his overall plan.
The prospect of a multi-year lease has caused concern with members of the board of supervisors, members of the community, as well as those concerned with the health of the deer herd. Some who had previously leased portions of the property from the IDA, who also put in partial bids for those pieces, have voiced disappointment in the process.
This disappointment stemmed from the initial proclamation from the IDA that they did not want to participate in renting the property or becoming long-term landlords.
When the sale turned into a lease many felt that the process was flawed, or at the very least did not live up to expectations.
Money notes though, that the property is in better hands if Martin is the owner. In his letter to supporters he points out economic benefits – like jobs and tourism – as well as preserving the deer herd at the depot.
He also asserts that elected officials are putting politics first, after failing to get their way the first time around.
For money, it’s a complete turnaround that some might not have expected. Many have also pointed out that a lease may not even be necessary, as the property is expected to be reassessed this spring.
The upcoming public hearing, which will be held on February 9th, will be to address the payment in lieu of taxes agreement. Executive director Bob Aronson, of the IDA clarified the purpose of the public hearing at last week’s February meeting. Money told supporters in his letter that the purpose of the public hearing was to address the lease agreement itself.
While that is expected to be brought up by speakers, the actual purpose of the public hearing is still to address the one- to two-year PILOT agreement, which totals $125,000.
The public hearing will be held at the Romulus Fire Hall located on Cayuga Street in Romulus.
Read Money’s entire letter below:
Seneca White Deer, Inc. was pleased last June when local businessman Earl Martin was selected as the winning bidder for the former Seneca Army Depot. Even before his selection, SWD was working with him regarding the opportunities presented by the Depot’s white deer and the vast benefits that they can provide to the region.
Mr. Martin’s plans to protect the white deer and his commitment to sharing this treasure with the public were very consistent with our own objectives, so we were optimistic about the future of the herd. His subsequent actions, such as forming Deer Haven Park and investing in food plots to increase the deer herd’s food supply, further demonstrated his commitment. After 20 years of effort, things seemed to be working out.
But now, the white deer population and the Seneca Army Depot’s history are once again at great risk. The fate of the Depot has been dragged out for over two decades. Now it is time to put aside politics and personal interests so we can move forward before it is too late and the white deer disappear.
Critics of the agreement between Mr. Martin and the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) are trying to undermine that deal and throw the situation back into turmoil, only because it didn’t turn out the way they wanted.
Two meetings in the near future will address this issue. On Thursday, February 9 the IDA will hold a public meeting in the Romulus Fire Hall and seek input on a short-term lease arrangement that would allow the property to be fairly reassessed. The Seneca County Board of Supervisors, at its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, February 14 at is expected to discuss the IDA’s plan.
We are urging all of our supporters to attend these meetings and make your support for the IDA’s plan known. If you cannot make it to the meetings, get in touch with your Supervisor or the County Manager to let them know that it is time to honor the deal made by the IDA and move forward with its plan to transfer the Depot.
The IDA’s proposed temporary lease is the best way to handle that situation. To open up the bid process again will only further delay rebuilding the decimated white deer population. All parties agree the current assessments are unrealistic. This lease provides the opportunity to resolve that issue. Further, there is no guarantee that any other bidders would include the deer management plan that so many people demand AND we would still face the assessment issues we have today.
Mr. Martin provided a business plan for the depot which would create jobs, put the depot back on the tax rolls AND to protect the white deer. He has already spent thousands of dollars in improving the habitat for the deer and mending the fences. He has not only ‘talked the talk’ but he has ‘walked the walk.’
Combining Mr. Martin’s ideas and business expertise with SWD’s positive reputation and tourism experience is a ‘win, win, win’ situation for the economy, Deer Haven Properties and the white deer. It is time to seal the deal with Mr. Martin through the proposed lease and move forward with saving the Depot and the white deer. For more information, please contact me at [email protected]
Please show your support.
Dennis Money, President
Seneca White Deer, Inc.