Ginsberg’s pays full price for Rte. 66 site

GHENT–The Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) has received a six-figure payment for 33-acre property in the towns of Claverack and Ghent on Route 66 near the county industrial park. The land was proposed as the site for an expansion of the Ginsberg’s food service company, but the terms for the site sparked opposition to the project and became a factor in a leadership shakeup at the CEDC three years ago.

In August 2015 CEDC, the county’s non-profit economic development authority, transferred the 33-acre parcel to DNJ Properties, LLC (DNJ) in connection with the proposed $14 million expansion of Ginsberg’s Foods. DNJ is a real estate affiliate of Ginsberg’s. The cost for the undeveloped land was set at a symbolic $1.

But there were conditions attached to the deal. A statement released last week by the CEDC reviewed the original deal, which said that if the expansion project was not completed within three years of the transfer, DNJ would pay CEDC $280,000–the appraised value of the property at the time–plus interest at 7% per year.

The project did not proceed, and last week the company paid for the property. “DNJ has paid CEDC the full amount due in satisfaction of all its obligations under the agreement, resulting in the property now being free and clear of all encumbrances,” the statement said.

CEDC president and CEO F. Michael Tucker confirmed this week that with interest the full cost of the property was over $339,000. He also confirmed that the company has been paying the property taxes for the land since the original $1 transfer was concluded with the CEDC board. The property includes 27 acres in the Town of Ghent and 7 acres in the Town of Claverack. The most recent annual tax bill totaled over $5,700.

David Ginsberg and his wife, Nancy Fuller Ginsberg, run Ginsberg’s, a third-generation Columbia County family business with more than 270 employees that focuses on food distribution for independent restaurants, schools, universities and others. Mr. Ginsberg was also president of the board of CEDC several years ago but resigned from the organization before the expansion project–which included a large warehouse and cold storage facility–was approved.

The transfer of the land from CEDC to Ginsberg’s proved controversial in part because the CEDC president at the time headed the engineering company that was developing the site for Ginsberg’s. That led to an investigation of CEDC by the state Authorities Budget Office in 2015. The state determined that the transfer of the land was proper but a report in late April described potential conflicts of interest on the CEDC board that resulted in the decision to hire Mr. Tucker and ultimately to in new leadership on the CEDC board.

Reached Tuesday, Mr. Ginsberg said his company is “exploring a number of possibilities” for the site but said he was “not at liberty” to discuss them.

Mr. Tucker said he does not know what Mr. Ginsberg’s plans are for the property, but in the statement he says that “the property has a number of potential future development options and CEDC looks forward to working with DNJ to attract an appropriate development opportunity that will increase the local tax base and create jobs.”

In addition to economic development and job creation, the CEDC’s mission is to “assist businesses to locate and expand within the county and promote Columbia County.” Asked for his ideas how the site could further those goals, Mr. Tucker suggested the land might be suitable for a solar farm–with large numbers of solar panels generating clean-source electricity for local customers. The site just southwest of the Whittier Place Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center.

Ghent Councilwoman Patti Matheny, who organized opposition to the Ginsberg’s expansion of the site, said this week that she had not seen the CEDC statement and had no comment.

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