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Otsego Now, Twelve Tribes

Spar Over Eminent Domain

At a public hearing this morning, Lee Beane of the Twelve Tribes argues Otsego Now is offering too little for the Oneonta Ford building, site of the future “food hub.”   Listening behind him are Otsego Now CEO Sandy Mathes and lawyer Joe Scott. Hodgeson Russ LLP, Albany. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – As the plans for the Mohawk Valley Food & Beverage Innovation Center move forward, negotiations for purchasing the former Oneonta Ford building have grown tense.

“We’ve engaged in good-faith negotiations with the owners,” said Otsego Now CEO Sandy Mathes. “We’ve shared info, appraisals and environmental issues that need to be remediated.”

But with the option of eminent domain on the table, a packed public hearing was held this morning at the Otsego Now offices.

Currently, the building is owned by the Twelve Tribes. “We owe $500,250 on that building,” said the Tribes’ Lee Beane. “We’ve been asking $600,000 for it to satisfy the mortgage and to expand our operation. We wanted to turn it into a bakery and expand the Yellow Deli.”

Otsego Now offered $150,000 for the building, based on a professional appraisal. “In present condition, the only use is cold storage,” said Mathes. “The building has been long-term community blight, and leaving it as is would be a drag on the whole Market Street project.”

The building would be the site of the proposed “Food Hub,” which would include kitchen workspace, retail, classrooms, offices and two floors of apartments.

“I’ve taken an informal poll of farmers and none of them have even the least bit of interest in the food hub,” said Johna Peachin, the local accountant, who spoke at the hearing. “It’s the subject of a lot of ridicule.”

“My prediction is that there will be a lot of vacancies in those apartments, and the landlords will fill them with students and other less-desirable tenants,” said Michael Stolzer, who operates a downtown art gallery. “The end results Stantec has shown is not what’s going to happen.”

Mathes said that negotiations would continue, and no decision has been reached as whether or not to exercise eminent domain over the property.

“I appreciate Sandy’s momentum,” said Beane. “He’s a good man and he’s got gusto, but maybe we need to sit down and talk more.”



  1. eminent domain is an abused concept that hurts communities more often than not!
    and lets put a food business out of business to create a food hub?

  2. How many of those behind the food hub, etc. remember the urban renewal project in the 70’s. Broad street was taken out with BIG plans for the area and it mostly sat vacant for years.

  3. I think that there should be some clarification about what is “Twelve Tribes.” Is it a non-profit org or what? There is a national Twelve Tribes that file an IRS 990 requisite as a non-profit. This point must be clarified. The threat of eminent domain based upon its previous threat value has not resulted in the improvement of the Oneonta quality of life. There is no shortage of affordable housing in Oneonta. Instead, there is a shortage of employment, that organizations like Twelve Tribes may be used as exposure to retail employment.

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