For decades, Onondaga County has talked about a proposed commercial business park on Route 31 in the Town of Clay called White Pine.

What You Need To Know

  • White Pine Commerce Park is a 450-acre business park located in the Town of Clay, in Onondaga County

  • Onondaga County has looked for a commercial tenant for White Pine since the late '90s

  • In Septmeber 2020, Onondaga County purchased 198 more acres from a Burnet Road property owner for $500,000

  • In October 2020, the county executive hosted a meeting with Burnet Road residents sharing a desire for the county to purchase their land to add to the White Pine site

Recently residents nearby on Burnet Road have been contacted by Onondaga County, as well as local real estate agents, inquiring about purchasing their homes. Now the residents of Burnet Road are wondering what the future holds for them and their houses.

Pointing across acres of farmland, Robin Richer, a Burnet Road homeowner, said, “There’s a hill way back up there that we used to go sledding all the time ... We ice skated on the ponds up the road here.”

There are many memories for the 35 property owners and their families.

“This is my grandparents’ house. And starting with the small house here, were their three sons. And there’ll be my uncle and my father, then our house. We’ve lived here our whole lives. We want to stay here. This is our home. This is where we want to retire,” said Richer.

Those are the things Burnet Road homeowners are trying to preserve.

Michelle Nuzzo is also a homeowner on Burnet Road. She has encouraged her neighbors to collaborate, and work together to stay informed and on top of Onondaga County's plans for White Pine Commerce Park.

Residents are coming together as neighbors to show just how important their background is.

“So this is from 1874. It is a county atlas map," Nuzzo said, holding up the large map. "If you look, this says J. Baker. The Baker family still lives in that house. It’s his ancestors. So there’s so much history here on this road.”

Michelle Nuzzo holds up a map of Onondaga County.

Now, they are asking for more communication from the county as they try to prepare for the future.

“We are faced with the anxiety of do we need to sell our homes or can we stay here?” asked Maureen Matthews, another Burnet Road homeowner.

“We contracted to build a house in 2020; moved in in October of 2020. I had a conversation with Bob Petrovich two or three weeks ago and he mentioned that the county wants to have a conversation to buy our property. We do not want to sell our property. Eminent domain, the definition is for public use a for-profit company is not public use,” said Captain David Wilhite, another Burnet Road homeowner.

County leaders tell Spectrum News eminent domain isn't even being discussed right now.

“If it does come down to eminent domain, a court has to make the determination as to whether the county has met their burden of proof to show why eminent domain should be granted in that situation," said Casey Jordan, Onondaga County legislator for the 14th District. "No one has come in and said, ‘yes, we want to locate at White Pines.’ Again, I completely understand their concerns. It’s over 14 years that they’ve been marketing if they haven’t had anyone come in yet. Remain calm; if they have questions, feel free to give me a call.”

Area families like the Wilhites are still uneasy.

"We have three children in high school and elementary school so the thought of, you know, relocate again, start schools again, move again,” says Carol Wilhite.

“We bought this property on Burnet Road. This is going to be our forever home. We put a significant investment into it. To uproot and try to purchase another home in this area is significant, and I really don’t want to put the family through that emotional roller coaster again,” says Capt. Wilhite.

Hanging a Christmas ornament, Carol says, "This is our Christmas tree. We are a military family in our new home. We’ve only been here a couple of months.”

From the newest residents of Burnet Road to the oldest, they are in agreement: They want to stay.

For more than 20 years, Onondaga County has attempted to lure a large employer to the White Pines Commerce Park in Clay. Currently, there is no viable interest from buyers. In 2010, a traffic study projection was done in this area for the county, showing that White Pines, once fully developed, would absorb many neighborhoods from Van Hosen Road to Oak Orchard and all of the 35 homes on Burnet Road.