Seneca white deer

A white deer at the former Seneca Army Depot

The winning bidder of the former Seneca Army Depot land may lease the 7,000 acres to start while local tax assessors work to adjust the current $28 million value.

Bob Aronson, executive director of the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency, said he hopes assessors with the towns of Varick and Romulus adjust the assessed value "as expeditiously as possible," but in the meantime the agency is creating a purchase and sale contract that includes a leasing option. Should a new assessed value not come forth soon, Earl Martin, the winning bidder and owner of Seneca Iron Works, will likely sign a one- to two-year lease.

In that event, the property would continue to remain tax-exempt, which it has been under the ownership of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the IDA. Arsonson said there would be a payment in lieu of taxes agreement established, too, likely sometime early next year. Funds generated from that will be passed on to the taxing jurisdictions as if they were property taxes. The arrangement, Aronson said in an email to The Citizen, means "a more reasonable amount of taxes will be paid while the assessed values are reset to more realistic amounts."

At the close of the lease, should one be signed, Aronson said Martin will pay his offered bid of $900,000 up front.

In the meantime, the various plans Martin has for the land will continue to move forward. Martin has already established Deer Haven Park to protect the rare herd of white, white-tailed deer that roam the property. Martin has paired up with ecologist Keith Tidball to work on a conservation plan. Also part of Martin's bid application included plans to expand Seneca Iron Works, and plans to establish Amish and Mennonite-related tourism attractions.

"He's been very busy trying to set up some food sources for the white deer," Aronson said in a phone interview on Tuesday. "He's been very busy clearing away an area around the perimeter of the fence so that he can keep that under repair. He's been very busy developing plans with his engineers and architects on what he hopes to do out there. He's moving along."

Staff writer Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or gwendolyn.craig@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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County Government Reporter