UTICA — The Utica Common Council has spoken.
At their meeting Wednesday, council members, by a 6-2 vote, rejected a $60,000 sale of an empty lot at 201 Leland Ave. to Riccelli Northern, a Syracuse-area company looking to build a concrete and asphalt plant at the site.
"I just want to thank the residents for showing up," said Councilwoman Samantha Colosimo-Testa, R-6, who was an opponent of the sale. "We were successful in defeating the legislation because everyone rallied around and stuck together. It's a win for the future of Utica."
Those voting against the sale, Colosimo-Testa said, included Councilwoman Maria Pezzolanella-McNiel, D-1; Councilman Dave Testa, D-2; Councilman Joe Marino, D-4; Colosimo-Testa; Councilman Mark Williamson, R-at-large; and Councilman Ed Bucciero, D-at-large.
Councilman Jack LoMedico, D-at-large, and Councilman Bill Phillips, D-5, voted in support of the sale. Councilman John Jacon, D-3, was not at the meeting.
The vote came after about 70 people who packed into City Hall’s Council Chambers to see if council members would approve a $60,000 sale of the empty lot to Riccelli. Some of those in attendance brought signs showing their opposition to the plant and applauded when they agreed with speakers during the public comment portion of the meeting.
North Utica resident Robert Cook was one of those in attendance.
“If they want to bring the plant, and I’m all for new jobs in the city, but put it somewhere, like … out in the middle of nowhere,” the Van Roen Road resident said prior to the meeting.
Mayor Robert Palmieri wasn’t immediately available to comment.
It isn't known what is next for Riccelli. Richard Riccelli, the company's, declined to comment when approached by a reporter during the public comment portion of the general meeting prior to the vote.
But he and other company representatives addressed concerns people might have with the plant during a committee meeting prior to the council's general meeting.
“My personal experience (is) there’s a Wegmans within two miles of three black top plants in DeWitt, N.Y.,” Riccelli said. “I’m sure Wegmans did a study and still decided to put their largest store within two miles of three blacktop plants. I also live in that vicinity, never an issue. My neighbors never mention an issue at all.”
The company hoped to invest $2.5 million into the former Matt Petroleum site to construct the plant. The plant was expected employ 30 people.
The city also has said the construction of the plant will increase sales tax revenue.
But during the committee meeting, questions from council members, North Utica business owners and representatives and the public touched on things including:
* Health concerns.
“It’s ridiculous and almost illogical to think that we can have that kind of facility down there and that we will not be affected by either truck traffic, the dust, the smell,” said Ken Roser, who owns the nearby 10-acre property at 215 Leland Ave. that houses his businesses, Roser Communications Network Inc. and Professional Media services.
It has been a long road for the vacant lot on Leland Avenue.
The city thought it had a buyer for the lot earlier this year after the city’s Urban Renewal Agency approved the sale of the property to Anthony and Ralph Giovinazzo of Crash’s Auto Parts & Sales Inc. They were expected to transform the property into a “pick-and-pull” auto parts business that would allow customers to take parts off vehicles to make repairs, but withdrew their offer due to health reasons.
Controlled Waste Systems Inc. also had housed storage units and containers at the site.
“The site has been in public ownership for nearly 20 years with media attention throughout that time, including the remediation process, CWSI’s lease and the potential sale of subsequent withdrawal by Crash Auto Parts,” Brian Thomas, the city’s commissioner or urban and economic development, said recently. “As a matter of fact, the Riccelli bid is only the second formal bid the City received for the property in the past 20 years.”
Still, Cook believes that the plant would have a “total negative impact on our community.”
“Don’t dump it back on top of our neighborhood,” he said.
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