Brownfield Gas Station Sites Returned to Tax Rolls

Article published in Watertown Daily Times on June 7, 0016  (website link or PDF)

Former gas station sites will be sold at St. Lawrence County property auction

CANTON — St. Lawrence County will be able to sell three former gas stations at its next property tax auction because the state has agreed to release liens totaling roughly $3 million that was spent cleaning up contamination at the sites.

County legislators Monday night authorized Legislature Chairman John H. Burke, R-Norfolk, to sign an agreement between the county and the state Environmental Protection and Spill Compensation Fund regarding three tax-delinquent properties the county wants to take through foreclosure proceedings.

County Attorney Stephen D. Button said the agreement releases potential claims against the county and any future owner for past or future clean-up costs.

“The county has been working hard to get properties that are unproductive back on the tax rolls,” he said.

In exchange, the county must pay 50 percent of the sale proceeds to the state Environmental Protection and Spill Compensation Fund within 60 days of the September property auction.

Attorney Gary S. Bowitch, an environmental attorney from Albany, has been assisting the county in getting former contaminated sites back on the tax roll.

The sites, all former gas stations, include a Massena parcel owned by David and Jeannette Parker at 158 State Highway 37C, a parcel at 3557 State Highway 3, town of Fine, owned by Murray and Terri Smithers, and a site at 69 Main St., Fowler, owned by John and Kathy Fuller.

According to the resolution, the state has spent $1,385,132 for cleanup and removal of petroleum at the Fine site, $1,223,268 at the Fowler site and $467,985 at the Massena parcel.

Although future buyers would be protected from those expenses, Mr. Button said the state could still try and recoup money from prior owners determined to be legally responsible for the contamination.

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