FULTON, NY – The two-year legal land battle between the city of Fulton and the town of Granby was put to rest last week when the Fulton Common Council took the last step and voted to approve the new city map, which now includes the Wastewater Treatment Plant on city-owned property.
“This is the last leg of the annexation,” Fulton Mayor Ronald Woodward said during the council meeting Sept. 2. “This property is now part of the Sixth Ward of the city of Fulton.”
Town of Granby Supervisor Edward Williamson said on Tuesday (Sept. 9) that there is only one step left in the process for the town, but the deal is sealed.
“Letters have been sent to Senator Patty Ritchie and Assemblyman Will Barclay to put the state stamp of approval on the final transactions details,” Williamson said.
Those details include a land transfer of approximately 8.3 acres of land adjacent to the Wastewater Treatment Plant along the Oswego River to the town of Granby.
“It has to go through the state of New York, through committee and be voted on,” Williamson said. “Part of the deal is the turn-over of 8.3 acres of riverfront property that goes back quite a way. It borders Gorman Lane. That’s a private drive.”
The plan includes creating a public road that leads to the sewage treatment plant, then an access road that goes to the riverfront property so town residents can get to the water.
“But all that has to wait until such time that the senate and assembly goes back in session, which is the first of January, I believe,” the supervisor said.
Williamson noted that the adjustment in tax income, something the town residents were concerned about, is not going to be a significant amount when compared overall. “It’s miniscule, really,” he said. “I think we were getting $7,400 a year. It is not going to effect the tax rate in the town.”
As was reported in May, the final decision that the Fulton Wastewater Treatment Plant could become part of the city was announced after a two-year legal struggle.
The New York State Court of Appeals in a memorandum and order unanimously concluded that the proposed annexation was in the overall public interest and recommended granting the city’s petition. for the proposed annexation.
The city of Fulton carried the burden of proving why the annexation was in the overall public interest and the referees said in their advice that there was no question that the annexation would significantly benefit the city.
Calling the waste water treatment facility the “nerve center” of the city’s sewage treatment system, it was further noted the plant is “a vital component of the city’s municipal utility infrastructure.”
While annexation would allow the city to “better manage, preserve and protect the system,” the higher court also noted that including the parcel as part of the city of Fulton would “significantly reduce the city’s tax liability and, therefore, the facility’s operating expenses.”
The document stated that through annexation the city would be relieved of town, town highway, fire district, school district and county real property taxes “which totaled $116,183.46 in 2012.”
The decision notes that the town agreed that the increased tax burden on its residents would be “minimal,” with a projected increase of only about 7.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
According to the document, the town further agreed that “[t]he City’s tax savings of approximately $116,183.46 per year far outweigh the minimal loss in tax revenue to the Town, Town Highway Department, and Granby Center Fire District, combined, of approximately $12,983.41 per year.”
Noting that because the city already provides full time police and fire protection, water and sewer, and road maintenance to its treatment plant facility, and is better able to handle chemical spills or other emergencies – even though the property is located outside the city limits – the referees said annexation would also benefit the territory overall.
The issue of annexing the city of Fulton’s sewer treatment facility began in 2012 when the state raised the assessed value of the plant and the land from $3,012,047 to $3,934,044.
Based on the higher assessed value, the city was responsible to pay more than $116,000 a year in county, town, school, fire and highway district taxes.
Williamson said during a public hearing in 2012 that the town did ask the state to reduce the tax assessment on the treatment plant property, but the state refused.
According to town and city records, the town was able to wage its legal defense of the property using its in-house attorney for approximately $12,000; in its successful effort to relieve the taxpayers of the approximately $116,000 yearly tax burden, the city spent $246,586.42 as of March 2014.
As a city-owned municipal property within its own taxing jurisdiction, the plant can now be considered wholly tax exempt.