The flurry of protests, media coverage, legal action, and public statements during the first part of May has suddenly gone very quiet. Many professionals and officials involved with the land deal have indicated that silence is golden, it means that negotiations are continuing.
To summarize the events to date: Great Lakes Cheese has a manufacturing facility in Cuba NY that employs about 250 people but the plant is, “at the end of its life,” said a company spokesperson. The cheese and dairy processor wants to relocate and expand the operation within Allegany County in order to keep the workforce whole and home. The perfect site for the potential development is farmland in the eastern part of the county. So, Great Lakes Cheese asks Charlie Bares of Marshacres LLC to sell his crop land near the I-86 Belvidere interchange and travel center for well above appraised value.
Charlie Bares says no thank you, I’m not selling this property at this time. The Allegany County Industrial Development Agency(ACIDA) became involved in the project from the public sector side because of the overwhelming public benefit of employment and economic activity. Bares continued to refuse the overtures from Great Lakes Cheese, rumored to be multi-million dollar offers for land assessed at less than two hundred thousand dollars. Great Lakes Cheese has indicated that this property is the only potential site that they are interested inside county borders for a myriad of reasons: Primarily highway proximity, plentiful electric, and the ability to expand the facility.
The ACIDA decided that the benefit to the county was so great, that they had to be aggressive. Keeping hundreds of jobs in the county and pursuing the prospect of hundreds of additional jobs is what industrial development agencies do. After it was clear Marshacres LLC was not about to budge, the agency filed eminent domain paperwork in court to force the sale between Marshacres LLC and Great Lakes Cheese.
Immediately, Marshacres LLC, launched a public relations campaign that brought the public, especially the farming public, up to speed on the actions of the ACIDA. Farmers literally drove their tractors up into the county courthouse parking lot to send a message to county leadership. News crews from Buffalo came to cover the story and the public debate over eminent domain started. Charlie Bares and Marshacres LLC hired one of the best “eminent domain” lawyers money can buy, Mark McNamara, of Barclay Damon LLP of Buffalo NY.
A phone interview with Mr. Bares and Mr. McNamara revealed very little new information, but it did reveal a very principled group of business people at work on a big deal. Our former President wrote about “The Art of The Deal”: Charlie Bares, Marshacres LLC, and McNamara are clearly skilled in this art; this isn’t their first ‘big deal,’ and it won’t be their last. As Bares told the Buffalo News, “Everyone has a price, right?”
Within days of that headline story in the Buffalo News, McNamara filed a petition in the NYS Appellate Court, 4th Department, asking them to tell the ACIDA that they could not exercise eminent domain for Great Lakes Cheese. That case is scheduled to be heard in early October of this year, that is if the parties can’t come to an agreement first. Read our previous reporting with full petition here.
The bottom line in a “big deal” like this is that legal actions are part of the game: Whether its filing for eminent domain or filing for an appellate court decision, both actions are very common negotiating tactics in the world of corporate development. There isn’t a bad guy or a injustice at hand, its two well funded professionally staffed corporations in the middle of a mega-million dollar deal. The ACIDA is playing the role of the broker between two private businesses who know how to play the game.
Agencies just like our ACIDA, play the same role in development after development, all across the country, by design. Craig Clark, Executive Director of the ACIDA, released a document that gives more detail on the role of the ACIDA in this ongoing deal. Read about that in our previous reporting.
Those in opposition to the eminent domain action held another protest on Monday 5/11/21 at the Allegany Courthouse that went on without incident. The rest of the week was only whispers and Facebook surmising. Almost every source we have on the matter echoed the same sentiment, “things are getting closer to an agreement….not one party involved has an interest in taking this to court in October.”
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