TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB-TV) – The company that owns one of Tonawanda’s largest parcels of land is defending the time it’s taking to find a suitable buyer.
The former coal-powered Huntley plant closed in 2016, and it has been up for sale for more than a year.
Town supervisor Joe Emminger and the town board agreed last December to start eminent domain proceedings to try to take over the property. Their reason is that the town could try to clean up and redevelop the site faster than current owner NRG Energy is moving.
The Town of Tonawanda has good reason for wanting to hurry things along on River Road: The Huntley plant used to be the town’s biggest taxpayer. It contributed $6 million annually to property tax revenue, and in 2017, that dropped to just $600,000.
Emminger feels NRG hasn’t been making moves nor has maintained transparency, so he wants to get it ready for redevelopment.
“And then we have to get it back to being a more productive member of our tax base as soon as possible,” he said.
NRG spokesperson David Knox disagrees with Emminger, saying that some conversations with stakeholders are confidential, and that the eminent domain proceedings may scare away buyers.
“We are concerned that it may actually render counter to the community’s interests, and that every step the town takes toward condemning the site potentially dissuades qualified buyers from continuing negotiations with NRG,” Knox said.
Knox also says no local businesses are losing their crucial access to industrial water – one of the town’s reasons for trying to get the nearly 100-acres of waterfront property.
“I’m happy to tell you that NRG, PeroxyChem, and Dunlop have reached agreements on extensions to the existing contacts providing for the desired access to both industries,” Knox said.
But Emminger says those businesses worry about the future.
“The industries approached the town, it wasn’t the other way around. The industries approached the town about the town taking control of their raw, non-potable water, and having the town supply them the water,” Emminger said.
Knox says NRG maintains its focus is selling the Huntley plant. NRG says it has a cleanup plan, but is waiting on who buys it to see what the land will be redeveloped for.
Emminger says if NRG finds a buyer, he’d hope to meet with that company before deciding whether to continue moving forward or pull back on the legal action.