Plans to build an asphalt and concrete plant at the former Matt Petroleum site at 201 Leland Ave. have hit a few bumps in the road since the project was announced in June.
UTICA — Plans to build an asphalt and concrete plant at the former Matt Petroleum site at 201 Leland Ave. have hit a few bumps in the road since the project was announced in June.
The Utica Common Council previously tabled the sale of the city-owned lot for $60,000 to Riccelli Northern.
And some city residents last week received a flier in the mail urging them to tell the council to vote down the project. There was a radio commercial and several letters to the editor in the O-D that expressed displeasure with the project.
But the future of an empty lot could be determined Wednesday by the Common Council, which could vote on the sale of the property to Riccelli. The Syracuse-area company hopes to invest $2.5 million to construct the plant.
“Knowing that this property has been difficult to market and sell, having only solicited one other bid prior to Riccelli Northern in 20 years, the mayor reached out to Riccelli as we were aware of their interest in constructing a site in Utica as result of a previous meeting regarding a different topic,” said Brian Thomas, the city’s commissioner of urban and economic development. “The city believed that 201 Leland Ave. met Riccelli’s criteria and upon visiting the site in person, Riccelli felt the site met their needs and submitted a bid.
But there are some that aren’t on board with the plan.
“When you look at that area it is more than just industrial,” said Councilwoman Samantha Colosimo-Testa, R-6. “It is a place where people have invested millions and millions and millions of dollars, and it’s my belief … that an asphalt plant is not necessary for that area.”
At a news conference Tuesday at Esche's Aqua Vino Restaurant at 16 Harbor Lock Road East, some city officials such Colosimo-Testa and Utica fire Chief Russell Brooks, business owners near the lot in question and others gathered in an effort to stop the proposed plant.
“It’s upsetting as a North Utica resident to think in the solace of my backyard I’ll probably now be smelling asphalt,” Brooks said. “Do I think there’s health risks? My personal opinion is even, if it’s minute, over a long term, long-term exposure creates risks, and there is just no reason to have this type of facility this close to a residential area.”
Attempts to contact Mayor Robert Palmieri were unsuccessful Tuesday, but Palmieri said in June there would not be any “abnormal sounds, smells or anything that will be associated” with the project.
“Riccelli Northern is a very reputable company,” Palmieri said at the time, “and we are excited about the positive impact this project will have in our city.”
A call to Riccelli also was not returned, but the company's proposed plan is projected to create 30 jobs. The city also has said the construction of the plant will increase sales tax revenue.
The site for the proposed plant has seen its share of contamination. It once housed an oil terminal that was the source of several major oil and gasoline spills that reached the nearby Mohawk River. Several years ago, the city demolished a structure, which paved the way for the state Department of Environmental Conservation to clean contaminated soil piles and excavate some soil.
Earlier this year, the city’s Urban Renewal Agency approved the sale of the property to Anthony and Ralph Giovinazzo of Crash’s Auto Parts & Sales Inc., but the Giovinazzos withdrew their offer due to health reasons.
Councilman Jack LoMedico, D-at-large, said he was supporting the project. He said he’s visited one of the company’s plants and talked to experts. He said that when it comes to environmental concerns, if the state Department of Environmental Conservation is willing to give a company a permit, then that should be an indicator as to whether the plant belongs there or not.
“If it’s spewing off chemicals or smells that are detrimental to the people in the area then I wouldn’t vote for it," LoMedico said. "But from all indications from everybody I’ve talked to, that’s not really the case.”
In the meantime, Beverly Esche, owner and manager of Aqua Vino, said she was concerned with the impact an asphalt plant could have on her business, which she said features outdoor dining along the canal for half of the year.
“Who would really want to eat here?” Esche asked. “I really feel that it would definitely ruin our business. Could we relocate? That’s always a possibility … but do we want to? The answer is no. We do not want to relocate.”
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