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Stateway Plaza owners should accept offer made by Watertown for land

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The owners of Stateway Plaza should seize the opportunity that Watertown officials have offered them and sell a portion of land to the city to create a connector road through the strip mall, which would benefit all parties involved.

Members of the Watertown City Council on Monday approved a deadline of June 6 for Martin Wenger and Ben Wygodny, both of Montreal, to accept the offer of $345,000 for the nearly 2 aces of land. If the Stateway Plaza owners don’t take the deal by that date, the city will begin the process of obtaining the land through eminent domain.

City officials have for years wanted to create a road through the mall — to be called Western Boulevard — connecting Arsenal Street to Gaffney Drive. Developer Patrick M. Donegan, Alexandria Bay, said he believes he can lure a major big-box retailer to an adjacent site if the public road is constructed. Mr. Wenger and Mr. Wygodny, however, have balked at the amount offered by the city. They believe the land is worth more than $345,000.

Accepting the city’s proposal would be a win for everyone. The city would be able to develop the connector road to provide easier access, which would entice customers to the strip mall.

The city also would accept responsibility for that portion of the parking lot, which is in poor condition. And a new big-box retailer would attract even more people to the area, a huge selling point for leasing out available space in the strip mall.

The mall owners may be trying to pressure the city into another deal. Stateway Plaza Shopping Center, Montreal, filed a legal challenge in state Supreme Court this week regarding its land at 1222 Arsenal St., claiming the property is overassessed by the city by more than $2 million.

Perhaps they believe they can muscle the city into an agreement to lower the assessment in exchange for the land needed for the connector road. That’s a risky game that will unnecessarily add legal costs to the project, something that both the city and property owners would be wise to avoid.

Mr. Wenger and Mr. Wygodny should see the advantage of taking the deal that’s already on the table. They’ll have improvements made at their strip mall at the city’s expense, and it will make the area more attractive to potential merchants and customers. Call city officials back before the June 6 deadline and take the offer.

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