By DAN GUZEWICH Staff writer
MARCY — There’s hope yet that the developer of a site for a computer chip maker will receive a federal wetlands permit without a condition seen as detrimental to attracting a tenant.
The issue has been taken from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ district office in Buffalo and moved to a higher level in the agency for review. The new assessment follows Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo writing a letter to the White House objecting to the provision viewed as onerous by Mohawk Valley EDGE. Such a letter automatically prompts additional review.
"We’ll see what happens," EDGE President Steven J. DiMeo told county legislators May 31 during a briefing about the development agency’s activities. EDGE is spearheading development a site of nearly 375 acres on the SUNYIT campus to attract a nanotechnology project like a computer chip factory.
He hopes to learn the outcome of the review this summer.
For more than five years, EDGE has worked with the Corps’ Buffalo office to advance a wetlands permit application for the site off Edick Road.
The draft permit proffered by the Corps in March 2011 included a requirement that bars EDGE from disturbing the federally protected wetlands on the site "until a semiconductor manufacturer has committed and been secured by executed written contract to utilize the subject project site for the stated project purpose in this permit."
EDGE accepted the permit while also seeking to have the special condition removed. It insists it needs the authority to disturb nearly eight acres of wetlands as it makes the site shovel ready for a tenant. In return for the permit, EDGE proposes to improve or create more than 50 acres of wetlands in the Oriskany Flats.
The agency says preliminary site work needs to be done ahead of time to improve the chances of landing a company that would bring an economic impact in the millions of dollars with it and more than 1,000 jobs. The Corps, on the other hand, says it needs to know whether the actual footprint design satisfies regulatory requirements before the wetlands can be disturbed. EDGE has prepared a conceptual site plan, but that hasn’t satisfied the Corps.
Project supporters say there have been several instances where the Corps has granted wetland permits for projects before the end user was identified.
EDGE rejected the first permit offered by the Corps, which later rescinded it when additional work requiring Corps’ authorization was identified.
The standoff over the wetlands permit has not stopped EDGE from moving the Marcy project forward on other fronts. It continues to market the site. Road, water and sewer improvements to serve the site have been undertaken. Land-use issues have been addressed.
EDGE identified the Marcy location as having potential for use by the semiconductor industry in the late 1990s.