October 22, 2021

Linear park moves ahead

Homer eyes 3 properties; donor adds $10K to offer

Kevin Conlon/city editor

The village plans to level three buildings this year along the Tioughnioga River’s West Branch for a new linear park.

The village of Homer is close to a closing date to acquire three properties it needs to build a linear park along the Route 11 corridor, said Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe.

“We’re waiting on getting surveys of the land back,” he said Monday. “We should have those back this week.”

The village board has been working to acquire three properties along Route 11 — the former Budget Inn Motel property, a defunct auto repair shop at 215 S. Main St. owned by James Harder and an empty building — to create a linear park along the Tioughnioga River.

But the village almost backed off from doing the project after Harder refused to sell the property at the price the village offered of $89,500. Instead, Harder wanted the price he said was offered by the previous administration under then Mayor Genevieve Suits. That offer was $118,000 — $28,500 more than the current village board’s offer.

With Harder not backing down, the village board looked at taking the property through the eminent domain process. However, McCabe said Monday that a deal was eventually reached and that the village received an anonymous donation of $10,000 to help buy the property.

“We’ve been negotiating with them all the way through,” said Natalie Miner, Harder’s attorney.

She said the paperwork for the property was signed months ago, although she declined to comment on the sale price.

“I’m not authorized to say any more on that,” she said.

Other ongoing projects

  • Village signs: Requests for proposals to create a new sign for the village will be going out soon, said Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe. He said once the village hires a company, that company must bring a design and present it to the village board before creating the actual signs. McCabe said he would like to have the signs installed before winter.Little White Church Community Center: McCabe said requests for proposals are going out soon for five construction tasks for the Little White Church, which the village is looking to make into a community center for plays, concerts, weddings and other events. He hopes to approve bids at the village’s August meeting and get started on work in September or October. No final cost has been set.

McCabe said once the village has all the land, it will need to demolish the two buildings there and “then take out half a foot to a foot of ground and put in new soil, then landscaping.”

He said it’s unlikely everything will get done this year. His hope is to at least acquire and demolish the buildings.

“But we may move forward with it this year too; it really just depends on what happens with the pandemic,” he said.

The project, which would open the river to residents, would be covered by a $380,000 state grant, which McCabe said the village will lose if it cannot progress.

“The linear park has been envisioned for quite some time as an opportunity to improve the quality of the gateway to the Homer and Cortland communities,” said Garry VanGorder, the executive director and CEO of the Cortland County Business Development Corp and Cortland County Industrial Development Agency.

“Removal of unsightly properties and a commitment to aesthetic improvements along that piece of highway will be of value to us as residents and will be appreciated to visitors, as well,” VanGorder added. “Quality communities do projects like this.”