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Luther Forest Tech Campus zoning changes will be up to Malta Town Board

Monday, March 31, 2014
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— Any major zoning fixes for the financially strapped Luther Forest Tech Campus can’t be resolved administratively and need to go through the Town Board, the town code enforcement officer has decided.

Such significant issues as whether to expand the kinds of businesses allowed in the 1,440-acre industrial park — or to offer financial incentives for companies to locate there — are Town Board decisions, said town senior code enforcement officer Tim Murphy.

His conclusions are stated in a March 20 letter to the Luther Forest Technology Campus Economic Development Corp., which owns the struggling park and was seeking wider latitude from the department in marketing development sites.

The tech campus, established in 2004, has been unable to attract high-tech tenants other than the massive GlobalFoundries Fab 8 computer chip complex, leading to cash flow problems that have left the corporation insolvent.

Economic development experts — including the authors of Saratoga County’s recently adopted strategic plan — say a town zoning law prohibiting property tax breaks as an incentive makes the park too costly for most companies, which can get generally reduced taxes and other incentives elsewhere.

The non-profit economic development corp. had written the town Planning Department in January, seeking “interpretation” of the planned development district’s rules in a way that would be more lenient about offering incentives.

Getting a favorable interpretation would have allowed the EDC to offer incentives without going to the Town Board, where the fate of any proposed zoning changes would be uncertain.

“The town [code enforcement officer] has determined that a request for interpretation as presented would not be appropriate,” Murphy wrote to LFTC EDC Chairman J. Thomas Roohan, a prominent Saratoga Springs Realtor.

If the LFTC EDC desires major changes, “the appropriate method would be to seek formal PDD amendment from the Malta Town Board,” Murphy said.

Roohan didn’t respond to a request for comment Friday.

The on-going financial struggles of the tech campus have already drawn the attention of county, state, and federal officials, without anyone coming up with a solution.

A portion of the massive tech park is in Stillwater but most is in Malta, which has taken the lead on zoning issues there.

Saratoga County officials proposed last fall that they would agree to take over the cost of owning and maintaining the 5.5 miles of interior tech campus roads in return for the Malta Town Board allowing financial incentives to be offered to developers and expanding the allowed uses beyond nanotechnology. No agreement has been struck.

Those roads are now owned by town, which wants to give up ownership because of the cost of plowing and maintaining them.

 
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