By ANDY GARDNER
MASSENA -- Massena town and village will consider selling land behind the Massena Arena, plus its annex, for a Dick’s Sporting Goods lot.
The decision followed nearly an hour of debate at a joint town-village meeting on Tuesday.
“We don’t have the luxury as a community to say ‘no’ (to a new business) right out of the box,” Town Supervisor Joseph Gray said.
“We’ve got a dying community that needs revenue,” Mayor James Hidy said.
Before elected officials will do anything, they want the roughly 1.3 acre piece of property assessed by their assessor. It may be worth around $800,000, based on comparable sales in the area, Town Councilman Albert Nicola said.
There was some resistance.
Members of the Joint Recreation Commission are reluctant to give up the land. Recreation Superintendent Richard Boprey said they would have to modify the arena if the annex was sold to Dick’s.
“If you put a building back there, the arena itself would have to be fortified,” Boprey said. He added that the fire lane that encircles the arena would have to be somehow reconstructed and fencing would have to be erected to prevent Dick’s customers from parking in front of fire exits. He also noted that the annex would have to be rebuilt somewhere else, perhaps at the Howard Street or Alcoa field.
Trustee Francis Carvel said the land would have to be altered and “you’d end up with a big retaining wall similar to Harte Haven,” which he believed could be unsafe with the large amount of children who frequent the arena.
Joint recreation commission member George Hammill said Dick’s should go near the St. Lawrence Centre.
“If I was on the board, I’d be trying to get that closer to the mall. That’s going to save that mall,” he said.
Town Councilman John Macaulay said he thinks if the town can get $800,000 for the annex, they should move forward with the sale.
“Then we’ve got a new, better annex somewhere else,” he said.
But, no one has actually been in direct communication with Dick’s Sporting Goods. All of the discussions have been from Harte Haven Plaza owner Michael Wachs, who many described as an aggressive businessman.
“Dick’s hasn’t talked to anyone in this room,” Trustee Patricia Wilson noted.
“I think if we had a letter from Dick’s stating their intent to come to Massena, it would make me think twice,” Hidy said.
The public had mixed feelings about possibly losing the annex.
Cassie McNeill, a parent from Massena, said she thinks Dick’s should go behind Tractor Supply because they would drive away a big chunk of their customer base by taking part of the arena. She was also concerned that age six and under soccer players will lose their playing field.
Angie Frost, another Massena parent, thinks the boards should do everything they can to make Dick’s a reality.
“I’m never going to be against a new business coming here … with so many sports kids in my house,” she said.
Carvel said he is weary of big retailers. He said what may seem like a good thing at first could hurt down the road if they decide to pull up stakes after a short period of time.
“They come into the community, they maximize profits and they leave,” he said. “A developer is out for one person and one person only: the developer.”
Gray thinks that Wachs has proved himself over time as being committed to Massena.
“He’s not going to take the money and run,” he said. “He’s been there 27 years.”
Macaulay noted that even if the land was sold and not developed, it could add $40,000 annually to the tax coffers.