Butternuts: We're still interested in Guilford

By David Avitabile

Much of the paperwork and groundwork has been done for the long proposed sale of the former Guilford Mills plant to a craft brewer, the real estate broker handling the purchase told increasingly eager Schoharie County supervisors Friday afternoon.
Though the pace may not be quick enough for some supervisors, the sale of the former Cobleskill plant, which is now owned by the county, appears to be on track, said Jack Kelley of Coldwell Baker Commercial Realty.
The real estate agent and brewery company officials did not give supervisors, who have already seen a proposed sale to Intelligent Fish stall and die, a specific timeline for a closing but said a great amount of work has been done in preparation for a conclusion.
The housing of the FEMA trailers in the large parking lot has hampered the completion of the sale, Mr. Kelley said, but much of the paperwork and groundwork has been done since a down payment of $5,000 was given last fall.
The potential purchasers have gone through the planning process with the Village of Cobleskill, went through the site plan review, began the annexation process with the village, worked with the IDA, and have come to an informal understanding on the "payment in lieu of taxes" agreement, Mr. Kelley said. The purchasers have also gotten a $750,000 grant towards the sale.
"Substantial progress has been made in the purchase," he added.
The housing of the FEMA trailers in the sprawling parking lot is slowing the sale, he said.
"It has impeded what we need to do," Mr. Kelley told supervisors.
Officials from Butternuts Beer and Ale and the Longhouse Holdings company, which is putting the financing together for the sale are trying to lure other vendors to the multi-building site and having the trailers in the lot has prevented some real estate agents from taking photos to market the site, Mr. Kelley said.
Some supervisors questioned the impediment posed by the trailers.
If there was a problem, it should have been brought to the supervisors, said Earl Van Wormer of Esperance.
"I hear it. I don't put a lot of faith in that," he said, adding that it was not much of an obstacle.
"If you had obstacles, you should have let us know."
County attorney Mike West added, "If you have a problem, pick up a phone."
Mr. Kelley answered that he spoke to officials from the county planning department and the Town of Cobleskill about the problem and was merely giving the county board an update on the sale.
"If you think it's smoke and mirrors, I'm hearing a lot of hot air," he said.
It was noted that FEMA officials have said they will move the trailers if the sale was completed.
A supervisor noted that with the recent devastation by Hurricane Sandy in New York City, Long Island and New Jersey, the trailers will probably not be in Schoharie County for long.
In the end, supervisors agreed, after a motion by Bob Mann of Blenheim, that the priority is the sale of the property and not the storage of the trailers.
Board Chairman Harold Vroman said he would like to see a monthly report on the progress of the sale.
While they continue to pursue other tenants and other craft brewers for the buildings, John Lorence of Longhouse Holdings said they would like to have the funding figured out in three months.
Butternuts' interest in the building remains as strong as ever, he said.
"We want to get into the building," he said Friday. "We have the same desire."
The craft brewing industry is seeing as double-digit increase each year and they are under a lot of pressure to find a bigger plant, Mr. Lorence said, to serve their own needs and those of other potential brewers.
The purchase and the risk are big, he said, and the expanse of the building is also an issue. Butternuts only needs about 100,000 square feet of the plant which totals 460,000 square feet.
Mr. Lorence reiterated that the sale is moving forward.
"We're continuing to move forward," he said. "We've never let up our efforts." He showed supervisors the drawings, business plans and environmental audits that have been done.
"There is a lot of work going on," he said. "Those things have to be done first" before a mortgage can be secured.
He admitted he did not think the process would take this long, but added, "We continue to move forward."
The company is undertaking a great risk in buying the building, he said.
The plant needs over $1 million in repairs to the roof, electrical system, and parking lot, he said. In addition, company officials recently found out that expensive improvements will be needed to upgrade the electrical power supply to the plant.

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