Town of Tonawanda continues eminent domain pursuit of Huntley plant

Local News

TONAWANDA N.Y. (WIVB-TV) – The Town of Tonawanda wants to see one of its biggest properties contributing to property tax revenue again.

The Huntley plant, owned NRG Energy, closed in 2016, and NRG has not yet closed on a deal with a potential buyer to the town’s knowledge.

Town supervisor Joe Emminger has worried about tax revenue ever since. The town became eligible for state help when the plant closed, but the amount of money New York contributes decreases each year.

“It’s roughly 100 acres on the water, which is a very valuable, key part of our waterfront development and our economic future,” Emminger said. “Because that’s where our growth area is, along that River Road corridor.”

Emminger says the town has given NRG time to sell and has even gone so far as to pass along proposals from interested companies, but NRG hasn’t closed a deal and isn’t revealing who the potential buyer – first announced in April – is.

The former coal-fired plant used to pay $6 million in taxes a year. That’s $6 million the Town of Tonawanda, its school district, and Erie County have not been getting since 2017.

Last fall, Emminger started looking into eminent domain to take over the property, and the town has moved forward with proceedings since then.

Not only does he want it back on the tax roll, but also, at least three other companies nearby say Huntley is an essential source of industrial water, and that source is at risk with an uncertain future.

“And 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.

Emminger also doesn’t want the site to become blighted.

“We’ve got to get the 100 acre site cleaned up – that’s first and foremost, as quickly as possibly – and then we have to get it back being a more productive member of our tax base as soon as possible,” he said.

The town’s plan for the future, called “Tonawanda Tomorrow” envisions Huntley as a multi-use site.

“Could a portion of that site, the plant, the building, be repurposed for some use? Some people would like to turn it into a museum, perhaps, of sorts,” Emminger said. “There still might be some energy use that could be taken from that site, clean energy use that could be taken from that site.”

Emminger says people can expect the property to be redeveloped for light industrial use, not residential housing.

Emminger hopes to see a contract for sale in the next 60 days and meet with the buyer before deciding whether or not to continue pursuing eminent domain.

His long-term goal: get the property paying taxes again by 2024, when current state aid expires.

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