St. Armand approves AMA annexation

BLOOMINGDALE – The St. Armand town board voted Tuesday night to approve the annexation of the American Management Association property into the village of Saranac Lake.

The village Board of Trustees is expected to do the same at its meeting tonight, which would give final approval to a process that’s been lengthy and complicated but has so far generated little controversy.

AMA delivered a formal petition to annex its 63-acre campus off of Trudeau Road to the town and village boards in December of last year, setting in motion a formal series of public notices, hearings and deadlines.

During a public hearing in January, AMA employees and representatives testified that annexation would help stabilize the nonprofit management education company and its 150 local employees. They said being in the village, and being able to use its planning and economic development services, will boost the prospects of developing unused buildings and vacant land on their property, which could provide new tax revenue for the village, the town of St. Armand, the Saranac Lake Central School District and Essex County.

How much tax revenue? AMA representatives have said as many as 29 lots for single-family homes could be created on portions of the AMA property, which could generate an estimated $35,000 in annual tax revenue for all the municipalities. If homes were built on each lot, it could generate $6 million in assessed value, creating $171,000 in tax revenue for the municipalities, AMA representatives testified in January.

At Tuesday night’s meeting in Bloomingdale, town attorney Matthew Norfolk walked the board through the legal process of making a determination on annexation. He said the board’s resolution has to include findings as to whether AMA’s petition is in compliance with municipal annexation law and whether it’s in the overall public interest.

Norfolk said his opinion was that the petition was in compliance, and he noted that no objections to it have been raised. He said any concerns the town had about annexation had been discussed at the January hearing, in particular questions about an existing payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement the company has with the town, county and school district. AMA officials have said annexation would not affect the PILOT.

St. Armand held its own public hearing on annexation last month. Three people spoke, none of whom voiced any opposition, although St. Armand developer and real estate agent Sandy Hayes questioned whether the company’s plan to develop its property is realistic.

“I haven’t had any negative conversations with anybody pertaining to this annexation,” town Supervisor Charles Whitson Jr. said.

Apart from a few procedural questions, there was no additional discussion by the board Tuesday night, and the vote to approve annexation was unanimous.

Park Avenue concerns

There could be some last-minute controversy at tonight’s village board meeting. Park Avenue resident Betsy Minehan distributed a letter to her neighbors Tuesday, encouraging them to attend the meeting. She raises concerns about the increased traffic that’s expected on Park Avenue once the gate to the AMA campus is opened up. The gate has been closed for roughly six years, but the village board agreed in 2011 to take over AMA Way, make it a public road and reopen the gate as part of an agreement with the company to annex its property into the village.

“While I am not opposed to thoughtful development of the AMA property,” Minehan wrote, “I am concerned about the effect of potential truck traffic and fast auto traffic on our residential street and want to make sure that village officials are aware that this is an important issue for preserving the character of the street and for the safety of those of us who live here.”

Minehan also said she was concerned that the village plans to remove the stone pillars and gates, which she said help control the speed of traffic. She said the pillars and gates are on the National Register of Historic Places and should be preserved and maintained.

Tonight’s meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the village offices on the second floor of the Harrietstown Town Hall, 39 Main St., Saranac Lake.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or