December 6, 2021

Route 11 project back on in Homer

Kevin Conlon/ city editor

The Homer Village Board is continuing to push to acquire all the properties along Route 11 to make the linear park along the Tioughnioga River happen.

The Homer Village Board will have a public hearing in December on whether it should seize a property via eminent domain along the Route 11 corridor to create a linear park along the Tioughnioga River.

“I didn’t want it to come to this, nobody did — I know nobody on the board did,” said Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe at a village board meeting Wednesday. “We spoke to so many people that have said that it would really be a disservice to the village of Homer to let this linear park and this improvement of this corridor fail and that this is exactly the thing that eminent domain is created for.”

The board voted, 4-0, to approve having the hearing. Board member Tim Daley was absent.

The village board had been working to acquire three properties along Route 11 — the former Budget Inn Motel site, a defunct auto repair shop owned by James Harder and an empty building — to make the project happen.

Village officials did not want to discuss how much they were willing to pay for the property Wednesday night, but the town of Cortlandville tax roll for 2019 listed the property at 215 S. Main St. with a full market value of $128,261.

However, McCabe said in September the project wasn’t going to happen because Harder wouldn’t sell his property, meaning the village would lose out on a $380,000 grant for the project.

“Because the grant was improperly administered before I took office, offers were made to the three property owners based on general valuations,” McCabe said in September. “The grant stipulates that the purchase price for the three properties be what they are professionally appraised for by a commercial appraiser.”

McCabe said the new appraisal resulted in lower valuations of the three properties, but Harder wanted the original amount offered to him — $28,000 more than the official appraisal – even after the board tried to get him a little more money to make up some of the difference.

Harder would not comment in September and could not be reached this morning.

Board Member Ed Finkbeiner said he’s heard the same thing from village residents that McCabe has.

“People told me, ‘you can’t let that $380,000 go — we need that because it’s ugly and we need to fix coming in to Homer,’” he said.

Finkbeiner said it would also be good for the city of Cortland for people traveling in that direction.

“The other two property owners are ready to go,” McCabe said.

The Budget Inn site is in the hands of the Cortland County Industrial Development Agency, which took ownership of the property in January from the Cortland County Business Development Corp., which bought the site in July 2015 at auction for $77,000 after an April 2015 fire.

McCabe said he also spoke to New York State Electric & Gas Corp. about a small piece of property it owns along the corridor.

“They seem like they’re going to be pretty amenable to turning it into grass or turning it into pavement and giving us sort of a 99-year, no cost lease to it,” he said.