Tonawanda News — For years, the school district has expressed interest in 4 acres of the city’s Little League Drive land, and now, the city is finally considering the request — passing a resolution Tuesday night that will allow talks to take place.
“This shows a great positive working relationship that we can have with the school district,” Councilwoman Jenna Koch said. “This resolution that was drafted basically creates an open and working relationship, and maybe that something that had been lacking in the past.”
Mayor Rick Davis, council members and school officials first met last month to discuss a possible deal. The district is requesting 4 acres of the property adjacent to its new football stadium. In return, the city would receive 4.3 acres on Main Street, the site of the original Clint Small Stadium.
Tuesday’s resolution allows Davis and Council President Carleton Zeisz to form a committee to identify options for both properties and asks that a contract be drawn up for consideration.
The resolution passed in a 3-2 vote. Zeisz and Councilman Charles Gilbert voted against the resolution, and both noted that talks could have been reopened without the measure forcing the talks to happen.
“I have no issue discussing this with the school board ... but at this time, until we have a definitive answer on what will happen to the entire property, we should not agree to a land swap,” he said. “This resolution speaks a lot about the council and its willingness to work together. We are either going to work together or we’re not.”
School officials had previously expressed interest in the land for green space, practice fields, soccer fields and a softball diamond, but the city was not responsive due to the planned housing development at the site.
A deal between the city and developer Natale specifies a $192,000 sale price for the entire 16.94-acre property. Natale would pay $1.8 million for infrastructure improvements. But city officials remain unsatisfied with the deal, which also allows Natale to classify the homes under condominium status. As a result, residents will pay less in taxes to the city, but will also pay homeowner association fees and perform some municipal services themselves.
The council has not approved the contract, and the city has been negotiating with Natale in hopes to reach a compromise. Davis said giving up 4 acres wouldn’t hurt the housing project.
“Those 4 acres would be the toughest to sell because of the proximity to the stadium,” he said. “It provides a buffer with the homes that are up there to the stadium, and it would provide the school district with more of a base for practice facilities.”
No specific plans have come up for the Clinton Small land, but Davis said he would like to see property developed into ranch homes that residents can purchase when downsizing.
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.