North Harmony officials have eyed a potential development on the Bootey Bay property in Stow for years.
A massive hotel proposed a few years ago was the wrong project at the wrong time, but town officials haven't given up on some sort of development that could provide a much-needed shot in the arm for the town's tax rolls. The town won't get that opportunity, however, if the state Department of Environmental Conservation has its way.
The North Harmony Town Board was notified recently by the state Department of Environmental Conservation that the DEC is starting the process to buy a piece of property on Bootey Bay. DEC officials reason the best way to protect the existing watershed is to purchase the land and preserve it - a logical way of thinking for an environmental conservation agency, we might note.
In the grand scheme of things, though, it's also the wrong line of thinking.
North Harmony officials are concerned about the purchase because it will take one of the last lakefront parcels open for development in the town off the tax rolls. Not only will the town lose the taxes it currently receives, it will lose out on the potential of a high dollar development in the future. They're correct to worry about losing a parcel of land that could benefit taxpayers for decades.
In the wake of McGraw's hotel proposal, the town adopted a comprehensive plan that included priorities to maintain a clean and healthy natural environment and protect watersheds from impacts that affect the environment and Chautauqua Lake. The town's stance on protecting the lake and watershed, coupled with the speed bumps already built into the development process to make sure a developer is paying attention to environmental impact, ensure the needs of Chautauqua Lake will be a priority in any Bootey Bay development. Sally Carlson, the town's supervisor and a member of the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission, knows full well the importance of the lake's health.
Much has changed since all the hubbub over the hotel at Bootey Bay. The DEC should step away from the purchase of land at Bootey Bay and allow a private developer and the town to find a use for Bootey Bay that makes sense for the environment and for town taxpayers.