Village leaders working with brewery to try to extend Balsam Ave. to lot behind for brewery expansion

by Dan McClelland
Village leaders seem intent on helping the owners of Raquette River Brewery access a lot behind their facility to eventually develop a large, production brewery.
Joe Hockey, who co-owns the popular brewery on Balsam Ave. craft beer-making business with Mark Jessie, in recent months asked the village board to extend the unopened village street past their place to provide access to a lot they would like to buy from the Sarazen family.  The difficult, however, is that a road extension would have to pass across a wetland area.  Under Adirondack Park Agency law, typically the only way to fill in a wetland parcel is to create another twice as big in size.
Joe was back at Wednesday's postponed regular monthly meeting to report that he had recently “walked” another unopened village street (Poplar) adjacent to the village's wastewater treatment plant at the foot of Water Street with an APA biologist, Mark Rooks,  and found there was enough acreage to “mitigate” the wetland filling proposed for Balsam.
“There's easy access near the drying beds,” he told the village leaders of the excavation that would occur there.  The area is already low-lying.
Mr. Hockey also learned from the biologist that the mitigation formula was 1:1.5 not 1:2, as he and others here had thought.
“We talked about the process and the village application (to fill Balsam and dig out Poplar) would require a scope of work and site plan.  It may need to be engineered.”
He said once the village applies for a permit, the agency would have 15 days to respond.  If more information was needed, the village would have another 15 days to provide it and then once all the material the agency wanted was submitted, it has, by law, 90 days to rule on a permit.
Mayor Paul Maroun asked Department of Public Works Superintendent Bob DeGrace about the project to reach the Sarazen lot and Mr. DeGrace admitted “it will involve some work” for his crew.  He said that maintaining the creek there would require the installation of “an over-sized culvert.”
He said he couldn't determine an exact cost for the village without some research first.
Trustee Ron LaScala said he andTrustee Clint Hollingsworth and Code Enforcement Office Pete Edwards walked the unopened section of Balsam Ave. and admitted “it will be an undertaking.”  He added, however, he thought it could be done.
Mr. LaScala recommended the village retain a civil engineer to study the project and give a realistic estimate of all costs.
Mr. Hollingsworth agreed, saying the village needs to know exactly what must be taken out of Poplar and put in at Balsam to open the new road for the production brewery proposed.
He wondered if the county had an engineer it could loan to the village to study the project.
Mr. Hollingsworth said for the relatively small cost of opening the road, “the village will gain a lot in the long run” in new jobs and tax base growth.
He pointed to the success and rapid growth the brewery has already enjoyed in recent years, noting that the partners' ten-year plan is to employ ten or more employees.
Mr. LaScala said he routinely looks at the license plates in the brewery's parking lot- and many of the vehicles are from out of state.
“The future economic impact far outweighs the initial cost to the village,” Mr. Hockey told the board.
He said the production brewery they intend to build will cost over $400,000.
If the village agrees to extend the street, Raquette River Brewing will again return to the Tupper Lake Planning Board for a permit, likely with conditions such as the type of lighting, etc., Mr. Hockey noted.
Mayor Maroun said it was nice to learn that the village owns enough property next to the treatment plant to mitigate for the new street.
“We want to try and help you,” Mr. LaScala told Mr. Hockey.
Village Electric Department Superintendent Marc Staves said there currently exists a three-phase buried primary line there “which would need to be looked at so no damage was done to it.”
He said the village policy is to provide up to 500 feet of primary transmission line to any new customer.
“What's your timeline...two years?” Mr. Hollingsworth asked Mr. Hockey.
“Our whole expansion plan depend on what the village board decides,” the brewery owner told him. “Without the Balsam Ave. extension, there's no project!”
“If the street gets extended, it's 100% you'll do your project?” the trustee asked him and was told “yes” by Mr. Hockey.
Mr. DeGrace wondered if the deal was dependent on the road being blacktopped and Mr. Hockey said it wasn't.  “We just want access to the property so we can” build there.
“We'll start the process and engage an engineer,” the mayor told Mr. Hockey.  He said he would also instruct Village Attorney Nathan Race to consult with the APA legal staff.
Asked if the street could be opened this year if the permits arrived, Mr. DeGrace told the board members his department has a big construction agenda this summer.  “It would be fall at best,” if at all this year, he noted.
“Is there someone I can follow up with?” Mr. Hockey asked the board and was told he should stay in contact with Village Clerk Mary Casagrain and her brother, Pete Edwards, code enforcement officer.
Mr. Edwards said he had recently spoken with Mr. Rooks and learned from him that St. Lawrence County has an engineer on its employ and officials there may be able to help the village with his services.
Mrs. Casagrain said there are several engineering firms the village regularly contracts with and she would contact one of them if the board wishes her too.