Court Rules Against City
Decision States Documents In Annexation Case Not Filed On Time
The Fourth Department Appellate Division in Rochester has ruled against the city of Jamestown in regards to the proposed annexation of the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities’ Dow Street substation in Falconer.
The court released a decision Thursday stating that the city’s original proceeding was untimely. According to the court’s ruling, the proceeding must be brought within 30 days after the filing in the office of the county clerk. The court states that the town of Ellicott, village of Falconer and the Falconer Central Schools filed their petitions with the clerk’s office that the annexation was not in the overall public interest on Sept. 13, 2017. The city didn’t file that the annexation is in the overall public interest until Nov. 8.
The court ruled that the state General Municipal Law does not require that the governing boards of all of the affected local governments must have filed their respective orders in the office of the county clerk in order to trigger the 30-day period. Instead, the court rules that state law stipulates the 30-day limitations period commences upon the filing of “the order by which such determination, that annexation is not in the overall public interest, was made.”
Contrary to the city’s contention, the law doesn’t not require either respondent to notify petitioner that such an order had been filed with the county clerk in order to begin the 30-day period.
“We therefore dismiss the petition in the original proceeding as untimely,” the decision states. “Because we dismiss the petition in the original proceeding, i.e., the proceeding by which review can be had of respondents’ determinations that annexation is not in the public interest.”
Stephen Penhollow, Falconer Central Schools superintendent, said the town, village and school officials are extremely pleased by the court’s decision.
“We were firmly opposed to the annexation as we stated it was just a simple shift of taxes on other local governments and the school district. We strongly felt we were right in what we were doing,” he said. “Its sad to say that we had to spend a significant amount of money, the bpu, the town, the village and the school district, but at the end of the day the right decision was made. Our community, our town, our village and out school district is extremely pleased.”
The Appellate Division made no finding with respect to the merits of the city’s petition, leaving the door open for Jamestown to continue to pursue annexation of the substation property. That is one of the options that will be discussed, according to Mayor Sam Teresi.
“The city sought to annex the Dow Street Substation as a savings for not only the city owners of the utility, but for all electric utility customers, both within and outside of Jamestown, and to ensure that the City’s critical electrical infrastructure would be protected by the city’s professional police department and fire department,” Teresi said. “We will strongly consider all of our options including refiling the annexation petition and pursuing further judicial review of the Appellate Division’s decision.”
It has been two years since the city of Jamestown passed a resolution to annex the substation in August 2017. In September 2017, both the town and village Falconer boards voted against the annexation, which lead to the case being decided by the Appellate Court.
When the annexation case was argued in the appellate court in April, Pietra Letterei Zaffram of Harris Beach, representing the town, village and school district, said the city didn’t file the necessary paperwork in time for the Appellate Court proceedings to even occur. Zaffram said city officials didn’t file the necessary notice within 30 days of the town’s — the main representative for the village and school district as well — filing that the annexation is not in the best interest of the public with the Chautauqua County Clerk’s office.
Stephanie Campbell of Bond, Schoeneck & King, the attorney for the city, said that the city wasn’t notified of the town’s filing. Also, she said that the statute of limitations on the filing for the city, who filed that the annexation is in the best interest of the public, is not an issue because the case didn’t officially start until an opposing view also filed a notice with the clerk’s office.
Officials in Falconer and Ellicott have publicly stated they were against the annexation proposal because it would cost them tax revenue. Currently, the BPU pays a total of around $325,000 in property tax payments to the village of Falconer ($69,000); town of Ellicott ($34,000); Falconer Central Schools ($154,000); and Chautauqua County ($69,000). The proposed annexation would have saved the BPU $173,000 in property tax payments to the town, village and school district annually. Jamestown and the Jamestown Public School District each would have received tax equivalency payments of around $80,000 a year from the BPU, less than the amount that the BPU pays to Ellicott, Falconer and the Falconer Central School District.