Lifting the Vail

MAYFIELD – The building boom continues near the busiest intersection in Fulton County, with three Vail Mills companies undertaking construction projects that will add to the tax base and help Fulton County officials make the case to bring water and sewer service to the area.

CMK & Associates Real Estate broke ground Wednesday on a 4,320-square-foot office building at the corner of Route 30 and Black Street, an empty lot that for generations has been home to the iconic sign for the Vail Mills drive-in movie theater.

Across the street, the Wildlife Sports & Education Museum told the town Planning Board it has proposed a 13,000-square-foot addition. A few hundred feet north, Fastrac has told the town it will move its gas station and convenience store across Route 30 in 2016.

“They’re all very positive moves,” said town Supervisor Rick Argotsinger. “It’s the most heavily trafficked corner in Fulton County, and there is room for business there.”

The projects continue a surge in development that recently has included commercial buildings that house a Dollar General store and Adirondack Harley-Davidson dealership.

CMK purchased the 1.8-acre lot for $165,000 after outgrowing the former bank building it began renting in 2010, owner Christian Klueg said.

“We looked up and down the Route 30 corridor, toward Amsterdam, and couldn’t find an existing building that met our needs, so we began looking for land, and this was right here,” Klueg said.

He said the site is centrally located for his 45 agents and 10 employees, who are spread between offices in Northville, Johnstown, Speculator and Burnt Hills. The building will also host his other company, CMK Marketing, and space will be leased to the LCS&Z accounting firm.

The drive-in movie theater on adjacent property closed nearly 30 years ago, but its large, red “Vail Mills” sign along Route 30 has remained. Klueg said it will be removed for refurbishing, then returned, with signs for CMK and the other building tenants replacing the marquee.

“One of the things that attracted us to that site is the sign. It’s a historic landmark, and when you’re coming north on [Route] 30 into the Adirondacks and the Great Sacandaga Lake area, that sign stands out,” he said.

Fastrac, which sits at the intersection of routes 29 and 30, expects to move to a new site next year. Fulton County Senior Planner Sean Geraghty said Fastrac has not submitted plans to the town. Brett Hughes, director of real estate for the East Syracuse-based company, did not return phone messages seeking comment.

The planned addition to the Wildlife Museum, which occupies a former Grand Union market, would double its square footage, update the front of the building with an Adirondack-style facade and ultimately expand the parking area to accommodate more than 200 cars.

The space would be used for a hunting, fishing and trapping research center and library, as well as more displays, including an African hunting exhibit. The museum already has more mounts of birds, reptiles and animals than the New York State Museum, the Adirondack Museum and the Adirondack Wild Center combined, Director Bob Kazmierski said.

Kazmierski hoped to build the shell of the building this fall, but he said the project has hit “red tape” as his architect and town officials work through concerns about fire suppression.

“The building’s so big, we were told we’d have to put a sprinkler system in … but then they suggested after a couple months maybe we could do partitions like firewalls. But we’ve checked with the architect and he doesn’t think it’s going to work. So, we’re stalled.”

Kazmierski originally planned to back the sprinkler system with a 7,000-square-foot pond behind the museum, but the site is near wetlands, requiring more layers of approval. He said the system could be supported by a municipal water system, but there is none in Vail Mills.

Despite the recent construction projects, Argotsinger said the lack of public water and sewer has been a “drawback” to development in Vail Mills, even though traffic on routes 29 and 30 have doubled in that area since 1980, according to state Department of Transportation data.

He said many companies, especially food businessess, are hesitant to move into an area where they’d have to rely on septic systems and well water, which require frequent tests.

The county’s Smart Waters initiative would allow other places in the county to access other municipalities’ water systems, while also developing new water sources and treatment plants. The county Board of Supervisors’ Capital Projects Committee has approved funding a study that would explore placing a treatment plant near the northeast corner of the intersection of routes 29 and 30, near a tourism information center run by the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The expansion will continue to expand the tax base, which already has grown by $1.2 million in assessed value because of the Dollar General plaza, which opened in 2013, and the Adirondack Harley-Davidson dealership, which opened in 2011. Combined, those property owners pay almost $13,000 in county and town taxes.

“You’re going to need more than those particular businesses moving in there, but as the tax base goes up, you’re definitely going to have an impact on tax bills,” he said. “When there’s sewer and water up and down Route 30, you’re going to see a lot of expansion.”