Johnstown board to vote on land deal

Town Board members say a vote to allow Gloversville to annex town land owned by the Fulton County Fe

Town Board members say a vote to allow Gloversville to annex town land owned by the Fulton County Federal Credit Union will hinge on whether the town is compensated fairly in a property tax-sharing agreement between the two municipalities.

Johnstown Supervisor Roy Palmateer said his board hasn’t officially voted on the annexation yet, but he thinks members probably will at the Dec. 21 meeting at 7:30 p.m.

The Gloversville Common Council voted Tuesday to annex the land off Route 30A. Annexation would allow Gloversville to connect sewer lines to the property without the permission of the city of Johnstown, which co-owns a sewage treatment plant with Gloversville. Sewer and water connections outside the two cities require both city councils’ approval.

The Town Board issued a news release Wednesday stating it will likely consent to the annexation as the only means to save a proposed Walmart supercenter project in Gloversville on Route 30A.

Gloversville officials have said the project is the city’s only hope of remaining solvent over the next few years.

Town Board members said the credit union has an agreement with Wal-Mart for the retail giant to pay for three sewer connections to its property in exchange for giving Wal-Mart land to build an access road vital to the project.

“While the town of Johnstown Town Board does not support annexation, it’s faced with the choice of not allowing this annexation and having the Walmart supercenter project canceled or approve the annexation to allow the project to proceed,” according to the released statement.

The city of Johnstown Common Council has agreed to allow one sewer connection to the credit union because its septic system would be destroyed by the access road; it has not agreed to the two sewer connections to the credit union’s vacant lots or five connections requested by the town of Johnstown to homes near the project. City of Johnstown officials said they fear development around the Walmart supercenter project could erode their city’s property tax base and sales tax revenue.

Town Board members said part of the reason they will likely support the annexation is a unique new state tax-sharing law to allow the town of Johnstown and Gloversville to create special tax-sharing agreements. The city could provide water and sewer and then work out a sharing of sales, property or other taxes from the Walmart project.

Details unclear

Johnstown Town Attorney David Seward said he and the Town Board have not yet framed a position on how annexation might affect a tax-sharing agreement.

“It’s a good question,” Seward said. “I don’t know the answer to that. There was some pretty broad language in there about entering into cooperative agreements and there are other provisions in the general municipal law about entering into an intermunicipal agreement between municipalities, so that might cover some of that.”

Palmateer has said Gloversville and the town of Johnstown would like to split the property tax revenues from the credit union’s land, with 10 percent going to Gloversville for maintenance costs and the remaining property taxes split in half, 45 percent going to each. He said the town of Johnstown stands to lose sales tax revenues from the regular-sized Walmart located in his town if it closes after the supercenter is built.

Gloversville 3rd Ward Councilman James Robinson said his council’s revenue-sharing committee hasn’t yet finalized its discussions over the tax-sharing agreement. “Hopefully in the next week or so we’re going to discuss our revenue-sharing agreement. We definitely have to look at this if it becomes an issue,” he said.

Johnstown Town Board member Thomas Hart said the town will examine how annexation might affect a tax-sharing agreement before the Town Board votes on annexation. He said being able to share in the tax revenues with Gloversville in exchange for allowing the annexation is a simple matter of fairness.

“When land is annexed, there is no clearer definition other than it’s taken from you. It’s the same as eminent domain, and actually it’s worst because you get nothing in return,” Hart said. “The town’s property has been taken by the cities of Gloversville and Johnstown for years and years and years, and usually it’s because of side deals signed between the two entities. If this annexation goes through and Gloversville agrees to split the revenue from the assessed value of the property of the credit union and any future development from those properties, then so be it, if the two parties will agree to it. I don’t know if you need a home-rule law to do such a thing.”

Town Board member Fred Maderic said he believes and hopes the state law enabling the tax-sharing agreements will still apply if the land is annexed. He said he won’t reveal how he will vote on the issue until the Town Board meets. He said some compensation for the town is justified if it allows the annexation.

“When you do something like this, you expect that things will be reciprocal on the other end, when you give up something, and that hasn’t happened on the other end with the city of Johnstown,” Maderic said. “We have to look out for the township and the people who elected us to office, and the main thing is that this whole thing is going to be very good for the entire county, not just the town of Johnstown and the city of Gloversville.”

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