Meeting not properly noticed under state sunshine law
Town officials today discussed the future of the Vista Technology Campus in a workshop at Town Hall that was not properly noticed under the state’s open meetings law.
The noontime meeting was advertised in the legals section of the Feb. 9 edition of The Spotlight, as required by law governing the convening of a public body to discuss official business (all members of the Town Board were at the session). It was not, however, posted on the town’s web site or outside the Town Clerk’s office on the public notice bulletin board.
Those postings are required under the state’s open meetings law, according to Robert Freeman of the state Committee on Open Government.
The law says that when a public body has the ability to place the notice on their web site, they must do so, Freeman said.
`They might not have fully complied with the law,` he added.
The town regularly posts events on its web site, including dates of meetings of government entities.
Supervisor Sam Messina said the normal procedure for noticing a public meeting was followed.
`I am not sure why the notice was not put up online,` he said. `I wish it had been there…it’s our intent to get the word out there as far as we can.`
Advertisement aside, the session was open to the public. It was a mostly informal session, and no votes were taken.
`We had a much-needed public briefing of members of the Town Board and our IDA [Industrial Development Agency] and Planning Board, and quite frankly I think all our staff. There was notification given in the paper,` Councilman Kyle Kotary said. `As far as I’m concerned it was a public meeting and it certainly was done in public.`
Much of the meeting involved the construction of Vista Boulevard, the 3/4-mile road that will lead into the heart of the Vista Technology Campus. Joe Nicolla of Columbia Development said the project must move ahead quickly to satisfy the schedules of potential tenants ` as he has on several occasions before. One party has to have a 110,000-square-foot building ready by Nov. 15.
`We have to be able to respond to that person,` he said.
Once infrastructure is in place, he continued, his self-described role as the project’s salesperson will become much easier.
`This is going to fill up so fast it’s going to make people’s heads spin,` Nicolla said.
Also discussed at length was how that road will be built. It had been proposed that the Bethlehem Industrial Development Agency issue tax-exempt bonds to the builders and the town form a special taxing district so tenants would pay the cost back.
It now looks like that taxing district will be abandoned for another plan, but it’s tough to say what mechanism might replace it.
Joseph Scott, bond counsel to the IDA, declined to say exactly what the new financing structure would be. If the special district does not have to be formed, though, it will also not have to garner approval by the state comptroller, which could be time consuming.
Scott noted the financing plan has been through multiple iterations at this point.
`What we are tinkering with is minimizing the involvement of the county and the town,` he said.
Under the last proposal, Albany County would have been left collecting taxes if the loans had defaulted.
Councilman Mark Hennessey, who was the sole member of the IDA to vote against moving forward with planning the financing deal, said eliminating the special district is a definite plus.
`I think creating new government is not the direction the town wants to be heading in right now,` he said.
Messina also said he’d like to see a model that guarantees the town is insulated from taking any damage should Vista go south.
`I am conceptually comfortable with what I’ve seen and heard,` he said after the meeting.
Vista has already gained approval for the plans to build the road and one 40,000-square-foot building. Retail space is also planned for the project, including a 65,000-square-foot ShopRite grocery store. By comparison, the Price Chopper across the road is 80,000 square feet.
Though hints have been dropped, no high tech tenants have been identified. Hennessey said that remains his chief reservation about the project.
`Show me the technology tenants, and then we’re off to the races,` he said.
The new financing plan is expected to be ready next week, and the IDA will likely take the matter up at its Friday, Feb. 18, meeting.“