The City of Syracuse has lost its legal battle against the Cor Development Co., and as of May 1, the city will finally surrender its last piece of harbor property to Cor.
The development company sued the city back in September as a way to compel city officials to release the last parcel of land at 425 Solar Street. Four of the five parcels were transferred to Cor back in 2015, but the city withheld the last piece until an ongoing tax dispute was resolved.
Back in February, a New York appeals court upheld New York Supreme Court Justice James Murphy’s dismissal of a lawsuit against Cor. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner had sued the developers of the $342 million Syracuse Inner Harbor project. In the suit, the city argued that Cor had agreed not to seek tax exemptions for the harbor project; however, Syracuse.com reports that Cor received a $44.6 million tax exemption from the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency.
Judge Murphy dismissed the lawsuit because he believes Miner failed to provide evidence that such a promise was made, and in February the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in Rochester unanimously upheld his ruling.
Now, at the end of their seven-month litigation, the city has informed Justice Murphy that it will unconditionally transfer its last harbor parcel to Cor.
Ever since the first four properties were transferred to Cor, the city has tried to stop development at the harbor, Syracuse.com reports. The same day the transaction was finalized in 2015, Mayor Miner announced that the city would be bringing a lawsuit against Cor for fraud. While the lawsuit was almost immediately dismissed, the city found ways to slow construction.
In 2016, Cor completed the foundation for a new apartment building only to have the city deny essential building permits over “safety concerns.” All construction poses certain safety risks, especially the excavation of potentially marshy harbor property. According to OSHA, cave-ins pose a serious risk of injuries and fatalities. With one cubic yard of soil weighing as much as a car, OSHA warns that “an unprotected trench is an early grave.”
However, in this case, the city contended that fire safety codes prevented it from granting a building permit, a questionable decision that was quickly rejected by a state appeals board. Because of delays like this, the city could soon be the subject of a lawsuit, too.
But unless Cor decides to sue Syracuse for monetary damages, this drawn out legal battle may have finally concluded.
Despite the city’s objections, Cor has already built a harbor-front hotel and is in the process of developing another hotel and an apartment complex, even though 24% of leisure travelers have stayed in a condominium resort and 22% have stayed in a vacation home rental over the past two years as an alternative to a traditional hotel or resort. And while investors spend a combined total of $9.2 billion renovating real estate each year, there is no word on exactly how much Cor has spent on their beach development projects so far. When completed, Cor’s harbor development could end up costing up to $350 million.
Ultimately, the city’s decision to hand over the property didn’t come as a surprise to many legal observers. If the city had delayed, the court would likely have ordered them to turn over the property anyway.