Landis Led Way In Pushing Cornell Site

FREDONIA — Fredonia Mayor Athanasia Landis made her first pitch on the evening of Sept. 21, 2016, in the former Days Inn hotel.

High-ranking Kaleida Health and Brooks Memorial Hospital officials were holding a community meeting to discuss the future of the health-care facility and the likelihood of a move. They were looking for options and sites that would best fit their future.

Landis came prepared. Immediately after the discussion concluded, she approached those officials with her suggestion: the former Cornell Cooperative Extension site on East Main Street.

To her credit, those officials listened from the beginning — and ultimately came back to the site by signing the paperwork late Tuesday. It is a big win for the village, courtesy of its mayor.

“I think this is a very good place,” Landis said of the former Cornell location Wednesday. “It is central for the whole northern Chautauqua County. That makes it ideal.”

Landis thought the previous location, which was to be located off Route 20 across the street from the Sears store, was not as welcoming. People could not walk to the facility and it would have a helicopter pad near residential areas.

The former Cornell site, she said, is far enough away from homes while still close to the Thruway. “If it’s up to me, I want this to become a great regional hospital.”

Before making her suggestion to hospital officials, however, Landis said she put Dunkirk first in making a plea to keep the current facility in operation at Central Avenue and Sixth Street in the city. “They were clear this wasn’t going to be the case,” the mayor said.

Seventeen months ago, the hospital announced it would select a location in the town of Pomfret, about a quarter-mile to the east from the current location.

What looked like a sure thing, however, got tied up in government bureaucracy. First, the Chautauqua County Planning Board nixed a change to the zoning for the location from agricultural-residential to business. Later, the Pomfret Town Board did not have the supermajority vote to override the decision. “That was not a good place for a hospital,” Landis said.

These decisions put the proposed build in limbo — and had Kaleida and hospital officials uneasy due to time limits with the $70 million in state funding for a new facility, which was awarded in March 2016.

They began exploring the former Cornell site – and settled on a deal earlier this week.

The site will bring plenty of questions regarding increased traffic to the Routes 20 and 60 intersection – and the proposed roundabout in the future. But having additional energy near the intersection could be a benefit to the business district in the village.

“We’re going to be able to market our downtown,” Landis said. “Hopefully, there will be new jobs and new devleopment.

“I feel this is only the beginning.”