Government

Yorktown Settles Pipeline Lawsuit; Gets $4.6 Million to Build New Sports Complex

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Supervisor Michael Grace lays out plans for the Granite Knolls recreation complex at the July 11 meeting. Credits: Brian Marschhauser
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YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Yorktown’s “Field of Dreams” moved closer to becoming a reality Tuesday night, as the town board authorized Supervisor Michael Grace to sign three agreements with Enbridge, a Canada-based pipeline company, totaling $4.6 million. Money from the agreements, one of which settled an eminent domain lawsuit filed last week against the town, is expected to be used to develop a new recreation complex at Granite Knolls Park featuring courts, fields, trails and more.

Enbridge will be granted temporary and permanent easements onto 3.86 acres of town-owned land, some of which is designated parkland, to complete the expansion of its natural gas pipeline. The town was compensated in exchange for use of the land, as well as hardships suffered during construction of the pipeline, Grace said.

A large chunk of the $4.6 million will likely be used to complete the first phase of construction at Granite Knolls, which includes the installation of courts for basketball, pickleball, tennis and handball; two multi-purpose fields for lacrosse, football and soccer; and a 90-foot baseball diamond. A Yorktown-based construction company, Montesano Bros., has submitted a competitive $3.85 million bid to complete this portion of the project and the town board said it expects to award that contract at its next meeting on Tuesday, July 25.

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Though synthetic turf would not be laid down until the second phase, Grace said, the fields could be operational as early as spring 2018. This is important, he said, because Legacy Field is slated to close for nearly a year beginning in November because of the pipeline construction.

The town has not earmarked a use for the remaining $750,000, though Grace has estimated the second phase of the project, which includes the turf, buildings, and lighting, would cost $600,000 to $1 million.

Grace patted himself on the back for negotiating the $4.6 million agreement for use of the 3.86 acres of land. By comparison, in 2015, the town received $1.5 million from Enbridge (at that time called Spectra Energy) in exchange for use of 7.5 acres of land.

“This time around, just do the math, it’s half of the amount of land and three times amount of the compensation,” Grace said. “If we went to litigate it, we wouldn’t get anything close to it.”

That $1.5 million from 2015 still has not been spent, Grace said, and could also be used to assure the recreation complex is developed at no taxpayer expense.

“I’ve got $6.1 million to create that [recreation complex],” Grace said. “I can tell you right now, it’s not going to come close.”

Grace said the town did not have a choice in the matter of granting easements to Enbridge. Instead of fighting it, he said, he chose to make the best of a bad situation.

“The federal government says you (the pipeline company) can do anything that you need, condemn any land you want, in order to further your project,” he said. “Even the state of New York couldn’t prevent them from doing it.”

Realizing he was going to get a “second bite of the apple” from Enbridge, Grace said, the town and the parks and recreation commission began developing a plan to build its “Field of Dreams.” The town hired Joe Riina of Site Design Consultants to create a site plan and bid the project statewide to determine what it would cost.

“Our town is going to suffer the construction of this pipeline for a good 11 months,” Grace said. “There are people whose backyards are going to be interfered with, their lifestyles are going to be interrupted, there’s going to be inconveniences in terms of road closures and detours, and we’re going to lose pretty much the use of our park (Legacy Field). We basically expressed those concerns to [Enbridge] and as a result of expressing those concerns, expressing the impacts, and tying into the impacts the nexus as to why they should pay for our new park, they then agreed.”

He said Montesano Bros., at $3.85 million, was the low bidder of the project. Bids ranged from $3.85 million to $9.6 million, with many bids falling into the $5 million range. He expects the company to break ground on the project in August.

“They’re locked into their bid,” Grace said. “It’s an excellent company with a great reputation, Yorktown-based, we’re thrilled to have them.”

The three separate agreements issuing a construction work permit ($3.85 million), providing temporary workspace ($250,000) and settling the lawsuit ($500,000) were approved by a majority of the board. Councilman Vishnu Patel voted against the construction work permit resolution, making the final vote 3-1. Though, Patel said, he supports the project, he refused to vote on the other two resolutions, citing his lack of familiarity with them. He said the resolutions had only been made available to him several hours before the meeting.

“As I’ve said many times before, I’m not going to vote for resolutions that I haven’t had an opportunity to review,” Patel said in a prepared statement. “I haven’t seen the three agreements listed on the agenda. I won’t vote for resolutions involving more than $4 million without having read through them first.”

The meeting turned fiery as Patel deviated from his statement. He said the site plan for the complex, developed by Riina, was not a “real plan” because the planning board and professional engineers had not reviewed it.

“I took basic engineering design,” Patel said. “This is just a painting thing. I have asked you before to send me the details. This is not acceptable and it was never discussed here in detail in engineering aspects.”

Town Attorney Michael J. McDermott said the planning board is an advisory board and is not required to review the plan. He also said Riina is a licensed engineer. Patel, however, cut him off, saying, “I am a town board member and you are not.”

Patel requested the board delay voting on the agreements until next week, giving him enough time to review them. Grace denied the request and said the plan has been in development for months.

“All of the procedures were followed 100 percent correctly,” Grace said. “As a matter of fact, there’s a full set of engineered drawings for the complete development of that site plan.”

McDermott retrieved and placed the plans on the dais in front of Patel as proof.

With seven public hearings scheduled that night, Deputy Supervisor Gregory Bernard attempted to move the meeting along, saying, “Vishnu, I don’t want to be adversarial here, but…”

“You are always adversarial,” Patel said. “You’re just a rubber stamp, what can I say?”

Grace said all the pieces to develop the recreation complex had fortuitously fallen into place and it would be a mistake to wait.

“We’ve got a bid price that we’re going to never see again, we’ve got a contribution that is unprecedented, that has never come to this town,” Grace said, “and I’m going to tell you, Vishnu, you’re welcome to the ribbon cutting.”

Patel reiterated that he supported the project but needed more time to review the agreements and could not vote on them.

 

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