Saratoga County

Town nears deal on Luther Forest roads

Representatives of the town and Luther Forest Technology Campus have reached a conceptual agreement
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Representatives of the town and Luther Forest Technology Campus have reached a conceptual agreement that the campus development corporation will pay for maintenance of town-owned roads inside the industrial park.

While the final dollar figure has not been settled on, it appears there’s sufficient agreement to allow construction bids for those roads to be opened shortly so construction can start this spring.

And that’s now critical, according to the team trying to develop the 1,350-acre technology campus and bring an Advanced Micro Devices computer chip plant in as the first major tenant.

AMD, while it hasn’t made a final commitment, is looking to move forward in 2009, and needs the roads and other infrastructure in place, tech campus officials said.

“We’re out of time. We need to have the infrastructure in place so they can move forward,” said Mike Relyea, executive director of the Luther Forest Technology Campus Economic Development Corp.

Currently, the property is mostly logged-over woods with few improvements. The state is providing $37 million in funding to build 5.5-miles of interior roads, and the town has agreed to take ownership of the roads.

The start of work was delayed throughout 2007 by a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wetlands permit review, but that permit was issued in December.

In the last month, the bid opening was delayed again because town officials wanted assurance the town wouldn’t have to pay for the maintenance of the roads from general tax funds.

Originally it was hoped the state Legislature would create a special road-maintenance taxing district for the park, but it hasn’t passed in the last two sessions, so officials have been seeking another solution.

Simply having the town maintain the roads without payments isn’t an option, according to town officials.

“The town promised repeatedly and loudly we would not bear the expense of maintaining the roads,” Town

Attorney Tom Peterson said, speaking of the 2002-2004 period when zoning for the campus was under public review.

Officials representing the town and the campus held a 21⁄2-hour meeting Friday to try to resolve the issue, and came close enough to tentatively put the matter on the Feb. 4 Town Board agenda for a vote.

The proposed community-benefit agreement would have the technology campus economic development corporation make annual payments to the town for road maintenance. Relyea has offered $150,000 a year, and the town says its costs are higher, but there’s hope an agreement will be reached by Feb. 4.

The Town Board appeared ready to accept an agreement without having any guarantee it could be enforced, other than the word of tech campus officials that they’ll find a source for the money.

“The board has to decide whether to take a leap of faith,” said Peterson. “We’ve gone as far as we can go.”

It may be good enough, given pressure to get the tech park construction started.

“We have to look at all the economic benefits if this moves forward,” said Town Board member Sue Nolen.

If road construction bids were to be opened in late February, construction will take two years, said Don Adams of Creighton-Manning, the project’s transportation consulting engineers.

AMD, the world’s No 2 microprocessor maker, has until July 2009 to make a final commitment to build its chip factory here. Company officials were in the region this week for meetings with consultants that appear preparatory to filing a site plan approval application with the town.

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