The town of Harrietstown Business Park, located in Lake Clear near the Adirondack Regional Airport, opened in 1997 and has two tenants. The future of the park has been an issue in this fall’s race for town supervisor.
While Harriestown supervisor candidates debate the future of the business park in Lake Clear, town officials are defending the work they’ve accomplished at the site since it was established in the 1990s.
The first tenant — Franklin County ARC, now called the Adirondack Arc — moved into the business park in 1997. Since then, only one other business has moved into the development, Bionique Testing Laboratories. There is no marketing or business plan for the park and no information about it on the town of Harrietstown’s website.
That’s enough to spark debate between the two supervisor candidates this fall — town Councilman Bob Bevilacqua (R) and village of Saranac Lake Trustee Tom Catillaz (D).
“It’s been more than 20 years since the town’s business park was established and the Internet became a part of everyday life, and I say, after those two decades, it’s way past time to start marketing the park on the Internet and to at least establish a link to a business park website from the town’s website,” Catillaz said.
Moreover, Catillaz said the town should create a stand-alone website for the business park to attract tenants, which would add to the town’s tax roll.
Although it’s not been quite 20 years — only 15 — since the business park has been operational, Town Board members were asked at their Sept. 27 meeting why it took this long to create a business plan for the site.
Councilman Ron Keough said a business plan wasn’t in place because the town just received Adirondack Park Agency approval for seven lots in June.
“How do you have a business plan until you know what you’re going to do?” Keough said. “When we finally saw where the economy was going and looking at the APA, we cut that footprint way down. That had to include buffer zones off the road, trees, a much smaller footprint, so it totally revamped what we could and could not do out there and how we market that.”
Even though the town has seven shovel-ready sites, each tenant has to file its own application with the APA.
“I’m not sure the Harrietstown Town Board wants to be in the real estate business,“ Keough said. “So if you’re not going to be in the real estate business, and you’re going to have a strategy put forth to develop the park, and you’re going to market the park, you need to have a mechanism in place that manages the sale of that property, each piece that goes.”
Board members haven’t had the time to sit down and address these business park issues because they’ve been busy with other town business, Keough said.
When are they going to do address those issues?
“There are only four human beings at this table,” Keough responded. “We don’t have a village manager. The town operates with the staff, and each of the board members are assigned to committees ... Realistically, what can you do? And if Tom Catillaz thinks he’s going to waltz in here, and in four or five hours a week, sprinkle around with holy water, and make it all blessed and good, multiply the fishes and loaves, he hasn’t a clue what he’s thinking about, none, and he’s deceiving the taxpayers of the town of Harrietstown in my view.”
In his campaign rhetoric, Catillaz’s use of the words “we can do better” in regard to the business park, the budget, the airport and other town business has certainly got the board’s attention. So has remarks released as part of his plan for the town business park.
“We must first make an unbiased and blunt evaluation of the park as it is and then make business decisions based upon the facts because that is how business decisions should be made and not upon wishes,” Catillaz said, adding that an honest assessment will say that “the park is probably not it the best location as it is 10 miles away from village services and does not have available water and sewer service.”
Coverage in the local media during the supervisor’s campaign has made the Town Board look ineffective and nonproductive, asserted Councilwoman Nichole Meyette.
“Unfortunately, what’s being portrayed, in my opinion, is that the town of Harrietstown sits back and doesn’t do anything,” Meyette said. “I’m not going to say it’s lies and it’s false truths or anything, but the correct information isn’t there. The full information isn’t there. The board meetings happen. The work does get done. But to present themselves, or the candidate, as they’re going to come in and fix and make everything better, it’s presenting the board as being ineffective. And it’s not fair and it’s not right.”
Councilman Bevilacqua said Harrietstown and many other local governments are trying to develop incubator buildings and sites, and business parks are a “great opportunity” for business development.
“Harrietstown has been laying the groundwork, and now with the APA permit approvals just received last spring, the park is well positioned to be marketed effectively,” Bevilacqua said in his position statement on the business park. “We should not waste taxpayer monies on a speculative ‘move-in’ building plan, in the hopes that a manufacturing firm will find it attractive. Rather, we should focus on a regional outlook for business and tourism, and use the business park for locating incubator facilities which match that research.”
As far as the business plan for the business park, Deputy Supervisor Barry DeFuria said there aren’t any current plans to draft one. Once budget time and the election season is over, that’s something they could address.
“It’s going to get done,” DeFuria said. “When? I can’t tell you, because it’s going to require this board to find a group or some individuals to help us do that. Whether or not we go and hire somebody and spend some money and do it, I don’t know. There’s nothing in the budget for it to be able to go and do that.”