Many of the supporters of restoring the Wiss Hotel building on Main Street in Le Roy walked out of Wednesday's village board meeting saying "their minds were made up."
Mike Tucci, Robert Taylor and Jim Bonacquisti all voted to demolish what may be Le Roy's oldest standing commercial building, even though over the past several months, two architects, three contractors and a code enforcement officer all toured the building and said it could be saved.
"They kept moving the goal posts," Trustee Jennifer Keys said after the meeting.
By her calculation, the $132,000 Tucci, Taylor and Bonacquisti voted to expend on destruction of the Wiss equals 8.5 years of the village's community swimming pool fund.
The fee paid to Empire Dismantlement will be pulled from the village reserve fund, according to Mayor Greg Rogers, who, along with Keys, voted no on Bonacquisti's motion to destroy the Wiss.
On Monday, the Le Roy, New York LLC submitted its fifth revised offer to purchase the building so it could be saved and restored.
The new offer answered many of the objects raised by Tucci, Taylor and Bonacquisti.
The offer was written by village resident and Buffalo attorney Chandy Kemp.
"We did everything that was suggested to us to make our offer more appealing," Kemp said. "We identified the parties (of the LLC). We told them where the money was going to come from. We eliminated some of the contingencies. We gave plans about what we intended to do with the property. And they still shot it down. I’m not sure what more we could have done."
At one point, Kemp and her husband, Chris, were thinking of buying the building themselves in order to sidestep any distrust the trustees might have of the LLC. But after touring the building themselves, they realized saving it would be just too much work to take on by themselves, so they joined the LLC.
"I don't think an offer Chris and I would have submitted independent of the LLC, I don't think now, it would be much different," Kemp said. "I'm not convinced we would have been successful. I'm thinking a lot of this, maybe the decision was made a year ago, and a lot of this was just running around until the bids for demolition came in and they knew how much it was going to cost and that just sealed it."
The latest offer also contained the promise of a $500,000 performance bond.
Tucci, Taylor and Bonacquisti all said they respected the hard work of the LLC, that they each gave the issue a lot of thought -- Bonacquisti said he lost sleep over it -- but in the end, tearing the Wiss down was "the right decision."
"In the last 20 years we’ve taken the Sterling Diner down, Vic Bloods has come down, the Millman block has come down, but all Main Street hasn’t come down," Bonacquisti said. "Not only did we survive those buildings coming down, but we’ve gotten better."
Tucci read a prepared statement:
I do have upmost respect for everyone associated with the Le Roy New York LLC. I do appreciate all of their hard work and dedication as to wanting to save this building and make something better of it. They have a passion for Main Street that I hope carries on after this vote. I realize not every one agrees with me with my decision to take it down but I do believe it’s in the best interest of the village. I can only hope people respect my decision and know it’s come with a lot of thought.
Taylor spoke about his 72 years of living in the village and the many hours of his life spent enjoyably at the Wiss, and that he's spoken to a lot of people about the issue.
"My personal opinion, the LLC just picked the wrong building," Taylor said.
Bonacquisti said, "the time for the Wiss has come," and that whatever replaces it will be better.
What replaces it is a complete unknown at this point, though, a point Louis Buono, a supporter of the LLC and owner of the McDonald's franchise in Le Roy, raised later in the meeting.
"There’s not been a plan in place; there’s not been an idea proposed; yet, you ask the LLC over and over againt to formalize a plan which could produce many opportunities here in this village, and yet we’ve heard nothing other than we will demolish the building," Buono said.
"In respect for the other people who spoke in support of saving it," Buono added, "I believe you owe it to the community to explain -- what do you plan to do with that property? -- and not just a commitment saying ‘we will do our best,’ but what is your plan?"
Rogers admitted there is no plan, but by the second meeting in April, the trustees will have a better idea of what will be done going forward.
Previously during the meeting, Rogers said the trustees now have a responsibility to protect the character of the village.
"It's the village board's responsibility to take care of that corner and put something there that makes sense and doesn't destroy the character of this village," Rogers said. "That's our responsibility. That's the five people who sit on this board, that's their responsibility. You have my word that I will work extremely hard not to be an embarrassment. It's a job I take very seriously."
What comes next is the biggest fear the preservationists have.
"All I’m hearing the board talk about is memories of what it was," said David Damico, a graphic artist who moved to Le Roy in 2008 and is concerned about the village losing its identity. "None of them seem to have any foresight as to what it could be. I think maybe it takes a new person to see that. I want to see this community grow and if we’re tearing everything down, I don’t see how that’s going to happen."
Many fear another Walgreens-type of development, which Selby Davis says, "maimed" the northwest corner of Main and Lake streets.
"It's now something we can do nothing about," she said.
That's also the fear of Chandy Kemp.
"My first reaction is fear," Kemp said. "I'm still afraid of the slippery slope. I trust the mayor and believe and trust his word that he wants to preserve Main Street, but I'm not sure that can be said of the others in the village who may have dollar signs in their eyes. That's my biggest concern, that this is the first step toward major demolition of Main Street, and that's something I would hate to see."