I am writing as a follow-up to Liz Giegerich’s article from June 11 entitled “City Officials Consider Environmental Impact of Central Firehouse”.
I don't think the City has reached an agreement to buy the Crossroads Shopping Plaza so they would have to invoke eminent domain on that property as well. Under the proposal that was approved by the Town Council, $2.75 mil was budgeted for land acquisition fees. If the City uses eminent domain to acquire the two remaining parcels, the cost will undoubtedly far exceed the budget.
Consider that in the Crossroads alone, six businesses will be displaced/relocated at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars (by law, the City would be required to pay prevailing wage for re-location and business fixture improvements). According to published articles, the City offered the owner of the Crossroads $1 million even though he paid $2 million for it twenty years ago. When you consider that the current tenants likely pay far in excess of $200K of rent annually to the landlord (for the portion the City wants), it’s obvious the City's offer is far too low. (Disclosure: I rent one of the spaces so I have first-hand knowledge of the approximate rent roll). Furthermore, almost all eminent domain cases rule in favor of the property owners because municipality offers are typically far below market value. Elected officials realize that eminent domain proceedings take years and they are usually no longer in office when the true value of the property must be ponied up to the landowners. In essence, through eminent domain, the current administration can put off paying the true value of the property for years (and leave for others to deal with) but eventually taxpayers will be left footing the bill.
I do have a possible solution that would save the City and its taxpayers millions of dollars of land acquisition fees.
The firehouse planners ruled out building the firehouse on the lot just south of the Crossroads across Park Street (which is empty) primarily because they did not want to build into the hillside next to Brown St. However, they could shift Park St about 100 hundred yards north of its current location so it cuts through a sparsely used area in the parking lot of the Crossroads (Park St is currently asymmetrical as it cuts across Broad St so it would be flipped from the south to the north side). In this scenario, there would be plenty of space to build in an unused flat area adjacent to the brick building on the west end of the lot and no businesses would have to be relocated. They could build the same exact firehouse on an identical footprint a couple of hundred yards from the current plan. The only difference is this location doesn't have the same "chest-pumping, in your face, look at what we built, Welcome to Peekskill" bravado for all to admire as they drove into the city on its main thoroughfare.
The current plan to use eminent domain has many losers; the property owners, businesses, employees, many loyal shoppers, taxpayers, future political leaders, real estate and sales tax rolls, etc. The only winners would be the firemen who rightfully deserve a new facility but for the most part are indifferent to its location and the egos of the politicians who are trying to force this through without properly considering all of the ill effects on the stakeholders involved.
Owner, Panio Wines and Liquors
Crossroads Shopping Plaza, Peekskill