QUEENSBURY -- Warren County leaders voted Tuesday to begin eminent domain proceedings to expand Warren County Airport’s main runway after a property owner opted out of a sale agreement.
The county believed it had come to an agreement with local developer Vic Macri to buy four acres of land and avigation easements over 80 acres he owns between the airport and Quaker Road. The purchases would allow the county to expand the main runway 1,000 feet.
That agreement was reached after more than a year of negotiations in which Macri made it clear he was not happy with the county’s offer, supervisors said.
Macri recently decided to withdraw from the sale, which would have resulted in him being paid $327,200.
The agreement was reached a year ago and county officials had begun preparatory work to take possession of the property.
Eminent domain is a legal proceeding in which a municipality or governmental agency can take land for its use, with the owner awarded “just compensation.”
Warren County Attorney Martin Auffredou said Macri had taken issue with the county’s valuation of the land and the easements.
The county could try to force Macri to live up to the contract, but Auffredou said he thinks eminent domain is the better route. It will cost about $30,000 to undertake an eminent domain proceeding.
Macri, who is president of construction company VMJR Companies of Glens Falls, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. A phone message left at his office was not returned.
The Facilities Committee voted 3-2 to begin eminent domain proceedings, with Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Mark Westcott and Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe voting against the measure because they had unanswered questions. Glens Falls 1st Ward Supervisor Dan Girard, Queensbury Supervisor John Strough and Thurman Supervisor Evelyn Wood voted to proceed.
Girard said Macri had sought to build an access road to the property, and the county had been willing to assist with the road.
Westcott suggested county officials meet with Macri to try to work out an agreement.
Westcott has questioned the need for the extension, and said he is concerned the state Department of Environmental Conservation may not approve the runway extension.
“We should be sure we’re going to move forward with this,” Westcott said.
Monroe said the situation “sounds like a breach of contract” on Macri’s part, and he asked whether the county could try to enforce the contract.
Some supervisors questioned why the county would pursue eminent domain in Macri’s situation, but has committed to spending more than $1 million for property and easement acquisitions at the east end of the airport’s other runway, instead of pursuing easements via eminent domain at a lower price.
“I’m getting conflicting messages about weather this board believes in eminent domain or doesn’t believe in eminent domain,” Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Doug Beaty said.
Warren County Public Works Superintendent Jeff Tennyson said county officials have been negotiating with Macri for years and his valuation of the land and easement is “so far off” from the county’s.
“Without moving forward we run the risk of having obstructions that are unresolved,” Tennyson said.