Last minute wrangling over a sewer fee has stalled the long awaited redevelopment of the former Main Florist property.
Planet Fitness owner Dave Leon said the town wants to charge him $15,000 to connect his proposed 12,000-square-foot building to the trunk line on West Campbell Road and has suggested he could pay far more when the sewage pumping station near the Rotterdam Square mall needs a forthcoming upgrade. He said the new flap came just as he was preparing to move forward with the development and has lead to another holdup in a line of delays he’s faced since proposing the plan last year.
“This is in the last minute of the eleventh hour,” said the visibly irate business owner after voicing his displeasure to the Town Board last week. “This building might get built next year, but not now.”
Leon said the town has asked him to pay an equal share of the pumping station upgrade as the other three users. Yet two of the other three users — 192-unit Long Pond Village and Rotterdam Square — have sewage demands that far exceed the ones proposed in his building.
“We’ve got only three bathrooms,” he said.
As a result, Leon said he’s lost some of the tenants he had hoped to include in the project. He said the hair salon and bank that had agreed to lease space in the building both pulled out because he hasn’t gotten a shovel in the ground in the originally stipulated time frame.
Leon said he’s perplexed by the slow progress he’s faced since proposing the project, considering that he’s planning to place the headquarters of Planet Fitness and upward of 30 full-time jobs in the building. He said the town should be eager to advance the project, especially since it’s on a site that has remained vacant for years.
“This should be a home run for the town,” he said.
Rotterdam officials acknowledged they’re negotiating with Leon and are confident they’ll be able to work out a deal that is amenable to him and the other users of the town-owned sewer line. Supervisor Harry Buffardi agreed that Leon shouldn’t be required to pay for a quarter of the pump station upgrade, but said the town needs to figure out how to best apportion the cost.
“I have full confidence we’ll be able to work this out,” he said. “What he wants with it — and I don’t disagree — is something that is based on use.”
Main Florist went out of business in 1999 and the property quickly fell into decay. Demolition crews removed most of the business in February 2007, but a project to redevelop the land into a retail building and restaurant went inactive amid the national economic downturn.
The property then became a haven for illegal dumpers. Several rusted dumpsters left over from the demolition remained on the site for several years until the town threatened legal action against then-owner Frank Popolizio.
Leon closed on the property in February 2010 and almost immediately cleared the remaining debris from the property. The site now remains among the last of the vacant commercial lots near the West Campbell Road exit off Interstate 890.
The added connections to the sewer, however, have taxed a pumping station that was originally constructed to accommodate the mall nearly three decades ago. Public Works coordinator Vince Romano said the pumping station ultimately needs to be upgraded to handle the additional users, but wasn’t sure what the work will cost.
“We don’t have any concrete numbers,” he said.