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Study to begin on contaminated property

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CHAUMONT — The fate of a possibly contaminated property in the village that has sat in limbo for more than a decade soon may be determined, as the county begins an environmental study this summer.

The abandoned gas station at East Main Street and Morris Tract Road was the subject of some debate during a Jefferson County Board of Legislators meeting this month when Lyme Town Councilwoman Anne M. Harris presented a plan to turn the property into a year-round community marketplace and small-business incubator.

Mrs. Harris and other town residents had proposed that the county turn over the property to the municipality for development as a community resource, but an ad hoc committee of county legislators identified the site as being “commercially viable” and wants to see it returned to the tax rolls as a private business.

The county started to foreclose on the property but halted the proceedings until more is known about the state of contamination at the site, according to county attorney David J. Paulsen.

What happens next will be determined by the results of the study, as county officials have said they may elect to keep the site if it proves to be relatively clean. Otherwise, they will turn the property over to its current owner, Leo Wilson.

If the county were to cover cleanup costs, it would want to recoup its investment by selling it to a tax-paying business, Mr. Paulsen said. If the property ends up being owned by the town, it would be tax-exempt.

But with few demonstrating interest in the site since the gas station closed some 10 years ago, Mrs. Harris has argued that a marketplace would be good for the community and the county by promoting local agricultural offerings and teaching entrepreneurship to students from area schools.

Mr. Paulsen said that the testing will be conducted by LaBella Associates P.C., Rochester, and should begin two weeks after the contract with LaBella is signed this week.

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