December 5, 2021

City says no to bid for property

Denial delays business expansion at least a year, Contento’s says

Kevin Conlon/city editor

Gerry Contento Jr., owner of Contento Inc. in Cortland, directs a driver dumping a load of scrap metal on Tuesday. Contento hopes to buy a neighboring, city-owned, lot to expand his business.

The city of Cortland Common Council rejected a $60,000 bid Tuesday for a long-vacant parcel of land at 119 Pendleton St., deciding to re-start the process, delaying a company’s plan to expand.

The vote was 2-5, with aldermen Kat McCarthy (D-1st Ward), Jackie Chapman (D-5th Ward), Tom Michales (R8th Ward), Bruce Tytler (D-3rd Ward) and Katy Silliman (D-2nd Ward) all voting against it.

The bid was that it was well below the minimum asking price of $100,000, Corporation Counsel Richard VanDonsel said. “If we took this bid, other people wouldn’t have had a chance to put in one.”

The city’s 2020 assessment rolls show the property is assessed at $168,000, with a full market value of $182,717.

Gerry Contento, Jr., owner of Contento’s, said $60,000 is a fair price for the 6-acre property. He planned to build a new office building adjacent to his recycling and demolition company.

“It’s enough for that property in our opinion, based on the condition it’s in,” Contento said. “We were looking at other properties, but this land was near our business and it made the most sense.”

Contento’s was the only bidder since a request for proposal was put out by the city a couple of months ago, VanDonsel said. Contento said if the property “was worth $100,000 to somebody, they should’ve put in a bid.”

“Legally and ethically, a bid like (Contento’s) isn’t right,” Tytler said because it’s too low.

Michales said he’d like to see a zoning change to general business on the property before the city moves forward on a bid. The property is now in an industrial zone.

Michales added that he was concerned about Contento’s adding to its business. “Residents nearby don’t want to see an extension of what’s currently there,” he said.

However, VanDonsel said the city could face legal issues if it tried to spot zone the property. “If you change the zones one property at a time, you need some viable support for it,” he said.

“Worst thing that would happen is, we’d get stuck in litigation for a year and people wouldn’t be able to bid on the property,” he said.

Residents in the past were worried about the property becoming low-income housing when the late Howard “Fritz” Brown owned the property, Michales said.

“Nobody will want to finance the property or put housing there,” said Alderman Troy Beckwith (D-7th Ward).

“I’d like to see if we can lower the price and also see if anyone else would be interested in it,” Silliman said.

Mayor Brian Tobin said council will consider that Aug. 18.

Contento said he won’t consider a bid of $100,000 or higher, and isn’t sure if he’ll put in another bid if the asking price is lowered.

“At this point, they can do what they need to do with the next bid,” he said.

The project could’ve been completed this year, Contento said, but instead the expansion will be delayed a year, depending on whether his company puts in another bid.