What’s next for Keuka Outlet waterfront in Penn Yan?

Gwen Chamberlain
The Waterfront Revitalization Plan calls for this area, part of the Penn Yan Marine site, to be excavated and used for a marina that could serve waterfront housing and a hotel.

Earlier this year Yates County officials learned their plans to sell the Penn Yan Marine property for development could move ahead, after the state’s approval of environmental clean-up plans.

By the end of June, the county will send out requests for qualifications to companies who have expressed an interest in developing the property, according to County Administrator Sarah Purdy.

She says that will start a three to five year period that could prove to be what she calls “really fun” as a steering committee works to make progress toward bringing new life to the stretch of waterfront extending along the Keuka Outlet from Red Jacket park toward downtown Penn Yan.

Purdy says the requests for qualifications will tell the county which developers are not only interested in taking on the project, but perhaps more importantly, which developers are capable of carrying out the type of environmental clean-up needed for the site.

The next step will be to issue a request for proposals, perhaps sometime in September. Following review by the committee and the community, county officials could have a deal in place by the end of 2011 or early in 2012.

Along that timeline, there’s a chance that the environmental clean-up of the site could begin in 2012.

There are still plenty of hurdles ahead, though, say Purdy, Waterfront Revitalization Steering Committee Chair Cliff Orr and Penn Yan Mayor Robert Church.

While the Penn Yan Marine site is a large portion of the waterfront area where a developer could build housing, a hotel and retail space, some of the scenarios outlined in the 2008 Waterfront Revitalization Plan illustrate the possibilities for expanding development to neighboring properties, including the Penn Yan Firemen’s Field.

The revitalization plan, prepared by Ingalls Planning & Design and Stuart I. Brown Associates and released in 2008, summarizes three scenarios. The first focuses on just the former boat factory site now owned by Yates County.

The second and third scenarios show possible development on what is now the Penn Yan Firemen’s Field, property belonging to Sarrasin’s owner Robert Pfuntner and improvements to the village-owned Red Jacket and Indian Pines Parks.  The plan also shows new housing or retail features on other neighboring private property.

The eventual developer who wants to take on the project is not required to follow the revitalization plan verbatim, but the steering committee will expect the design to incorporate the priorities that are outlined in the plan’s summary. Orr says the ultimate goal is to establish major public access to the water with developments and improvements from Main Street to Red Jacket Park.

Before any of the projects can take form, however, the committee needs to come to agreement on a number of issues, in particular, how to pay for the improvements to Penn Yan’s infrastructure that will be needed.

“Everyone is in agreement that the infrastructure improvements cannot come off the backs of the current (utility) users,” explains Orr, who says the committee members also concede that it’s unrealistic to expect a developer to take on the expense of improving water and sewer service along with the cost of cleaning up the brownfield.

Orr says the committee has already discussed three ways to cover the cost of the improvements, and

Village Trustee Wayne Davidson has agreed to organize a subcommittee to establish the cost for improvements.

But water and sewer lines aren’t the only things Church is concerned about. He says the addition of townhouses, condominiums or a hotel will increase the village’s electricity use. When the village exceeds its allotment of hydropower electricity, it must purchase power, which is more costly, according to Church.

Doing so increases the cost of all power, an expanse that will be shared by all electric customers through their regular bills.

That’s not all Church is concerned about. He says the village will be saddled with handling additional traffic, a burden on streets. He’s also concerned about the impact that new retail shops could have on the village’s downtown merchants.

Church is also working on another issue - the future of the Firemen’s Field. He says members of the Penn Yan Fire Department are aware that the village-owned property that lies between the Keuka Outlet and Knapp & Schlappi Lumber could likely be desired by a developer.

While the fire department members understand what the future might hold for the field where they hold trainings and events, Church says the village will have to find another location that’s suitable for the firemen’s use.

Church says although the county’s property might be ready for the project to begin moving ahead and he agrees that revitalization would be “fantastic” for the village and county, village officials need to see a developer’s proposal before deciding the best course of action for the village.

“The bottom line is, we’re more than willing to listen to anything,” says Church, adding, “But all the headaches belong to the village.”