WATERTOWN — The head of the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency hopes to avoid a “brouhaha” over a local developer’s plans to build a distribution center and complete a separate subdivision in the county corporate park.
Donald C. Alexander, CEO of the Jefferson County Local Development Corp., the IDA’s sister organization, doesn’t want to go through the same kind of controversy that erupted when developer Michael E. Lundy proposed building a bus garage for First Student two years ago.
On Thursday, the IDA board talked at length about Mr. Lundy’s plans to build a 22,200-square-foot distribution center for an unidentified company that he plans for Lot 10 in the Jefferson County Corporate Park.
Mr. Lundy also proposed subdividing Lot 2 into two parcels and constructing an 8,000-square-foot building that he would use for his construction company.
But businessman Edward J. Valentine, who has his corporate offices next to the site for the distribution center, complained that the public wasn’t properly notified of the two projects prior to Monday’s Town of Watertown Planning Board meeting, as required by law.
He expressed concerns that Mr. Lundy proposed parking in front of the distribution center when parking lots are required to be only on the side or in the back. He also mentioned the building would not have a 75-foot setback, which also is required.
IDA board member Paul J. Warneck contacted Mr. Valentine about the projects after hearing about them on the Tuesday before the meeting. He, too, was upset about how the projects were handled, especially since the First Student proposal caused such controversy. The bus garage was never built.
“How did it happen a second time when it was so contentious?” he said. “I think everyone remembers how controversial it was.”
IDA board member Robert E. Aliasso Jr. also expressed concerns about the way the situation was handled, criticizing “the crap that was put in front of us.”
The Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency owns the corporate park.
Town of Watertown officials said that the public was notified properly about the Planning Board meeting, declining further comment.
Some of Thursday’s discussion revolved around the subdivision and problems with trucks parking at the Penske site on Lot 2. Board members expressed concerns that the business was violating covenants, rules that govern the corporate park.
After about 30 minutes of discussion, Mr. Alexander expressed his frustration.
“I just want to avoid another brouhaha from two years ago,” he said, adding that he would like to see everyone work together to create needed jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Lundy on Friday said that he did what he was required to do — go for site approval from the town Planning Board.
“As far I’m concerned, I presented the plans to the Planning Board, they reviewed them and they approved them,” he said. “The (IDA) board thinks that they have the power of approving projects. They do not.”
He also thinks that the covenants should be abolished because town planning and zoning boards are now in place to make decisions on these kinds of projects. The covenants were established before the creation of town planning and zoning laws.
Mr. Lundy also insisted that businesses throughout the corporate park have and continue to violate the covenants that are supposed to guide how they operate in the park.
The IDA took no action on the projects. Mr. Lundy said he would talk to board members about their concerns and answer any questions.