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Proposed performing arts center faces latest hurdle

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Proposed performing arts center faces latest hurdle
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After three years of delays, plans to build a performing arts center in Auburn looked just about ready to move forward. Then last week came another hurdle. A petition was filed in State Supreme Court asking to halt the project until environmental and code concerns could be addressed. Our Sarah Blazonis tells us those involved with the theater effort say the necessary steps have been taken and they're ready get the project started.


AUBURN, N.Y. -- Final preparations are underway at Osteria Salina, soon to be State Street's newest business.

"This particular area of State St. is really just going to be growing with lots of new, exciting things. Across the street is the theater festival coming up, so we're super excited to be neighbors with them," said Sean Wrench, Sales Director for the restaurant, bar, and bakery set to open on December 19.

But when the Schwartz Family Performing Arts Center will become a reality is anyone's guess.

Attorney Joseph Camardo, Jr. filed a petition against parties involved in the project. It raises concerns about soil contamination from chemicals and what it could mean for air quality when this soil is removed during construction. The theater's planned location used to be home to a facility that cleaned fur garments.

But one group involved with the project says three State Environmental Quality Reports have been completed.

"It's been exhaustively tested and studied over the last three years," said Ed Sayles, Producing Director for the Finger Lakes Musical Theater Festival. "Everybody's been involved, the whole community's commented, the neighbors got to say what they think, and so we feel that everything has been satisfied."

Sayles says that the project has gotten a lot of support from the community through efforts like a petition people signed in support of the theater, and now the next step will be to turn to the state to finally get things going.

Sayles says the musical theater festival, which wasn't named in the case, plans to write a letter to the governor's office asking officials to reach out to the necessary agencies.

"Come in here, look at the situation, and say very clearly in black letter law what the state's position is, because to go to court and spend public money to determine what the state should tell us anyway seems a little odd," said Sayles.

Sayles says the project is part of a city revitalization effort and has been awarded millions in regional economic development funds. When it's cleared to go ahead, he says construction could begin within weeks.

Camardo declined to comment for this story.

Those named in the petition are the City of Auburn along with its city council, planning board, and zoning board of appeals, Cayuga County, Cayuga Community College, City Code Enforcement Officer Brian Hicks, Auburn Fire Chief Jeff Dygert, and County Code Enforcement Officer Howard Tanner.

Auburn's corporation counsel, Andrew Fusco, says the next step for the city is to file a response to this latest lawsuit. He says only trace amounts of chemicals were found in air tests that aren't cause for environmental concern. Fusco also says this is the sixth legal action relating to the project from Camardo.

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