Hmm seems like Leroy is taking a cue from the County Govt in doing what they want despite what the people that elected them indicate they want. As well as doing it while spending the monies they get from those same people rather than making a more fiscal choice. Looks like Jennifer may be the only person not voted out of office in Leroy.....
Trustees pass on offer for business group to buy Wiss, start process to have it torn down
Submitted by Howard Owens on January 10, 2013 - 10:09am
All the experts agree, as Bob Fussell pointed out Wednesday night, the Wiss is structurally sound, but that doesn't mean it's not on shaky ground.
Wednesday, the Village of Le Roy trustees took two key steps that all but guarantee the irreplaceable building's destruction. The board failed to vote on a motion to make a counteroffer for a group of local residents to buy the property and then passed a motion to seek requests for proposal to have the old hotel demolished.
"You're being given an opportunity to have this $250,000 -- maybe half a million -- headache taken off your shoulders and you're asking us to pay $10,000 to boot," Fussell said. "We're probably willing to pay you that $10,000 just because we care about the community.
"We're willing to do something for you that's a huge value and every expert who's looked at it said it's remediable, even Clark Patterson has said you can remediate that."
The reference to Clark Patterson goes back to a three-page letter trustees discussed to kick off the meeting. Trustee Robert Taylor, according to Mayor Greg Rogers, was concerned about the condition of the Wiss and asked engineers from Clark Patterson Lee Design Professionals in Rochester to inspect the building.
Their three-page report, as discussed by trustees, said the building is currently a danger to the public. Youths have trespassed on the property and there are several potential safety issues that need to be addressed immediately.
But as Trustee Jennifer Keys pointed out, the engineers didn't say the building needed to be demolished, and on a merely visual inspection, they found no structural defects.
A more thorough inspection might be required to find any serious problems.
Trustees Taylor, Jim Bonaquisti and Mike Tucci all seized on the report to call for the building's immediate destruction.
"Obviously, this report kind of opened my eyes to a lot of different things," Bonaquisti said.
He noted that his family once owned the building so he knows the roof has been leaking for 30 years and that there have been no tenants on the third floor, because of the leaks, for those three decades.
He said the report noted that youths have apparently been playing beer pong in the vacant building.
"A great concern of mine is that somebody is going to get hurt," Bonaquisti said. "Now there's talk of somebody signing a release from liability and going in and putting a tarp on the roof. Even though we might not be legally liable, it sure would not make me feel very good if somebody went in there and got hurt."
Taylor said one of the things he learned from the report that makes him more comfortable with tearing the Wiss down is that the neighboring building and the Wiss don't share a common wall, so destruction of the Wiss won't harm the other building.
"And the very last paragraph of the report says that some major structural problems may have eluded detection because of limited access to some areas of the building," Taylor said.
Tucci said the report, in his mind, cements the idea that the Wiss needs to be demolished.
"It needs to come down and it needs to come down now," he said. "The report talks about the danger it poses to life and proprty and the surrounding area. If we continue to let it sit there and collect snow that melts and freezes and does it all over again, it's putting the assets of the village at risk."
Fussell, an attorney with experience in liability law, was taken aback by the sudden concern over liability for the village by Bonaquisti, Taylor and Tucci.
If there was such a concern for the danger of the building, Fussell asked, how come the insurance company for the village hasn't been demanding a cover on the roof or a scaffolding around the building or otherwise pushed the village to ensure the safety of the building?
"We've put in a lot of money and a lot of effort to do something for this community and all of the sudden these bogeymen concerns about liability," Fussell said. "You know I know a lot about liability.
"I'm a trial lawyer. I've been doing it for 40 years. I know a great deal about it. I know that this baloney that you've got about liability is nothing more than that. I'll be very blunt in telling you that."
Former Mayor Jim DeLooze -- who owns a building on Main Street that he said he's invested $250,000 in -- said he's very concerned about the fire danger presented by the Wiss. The first fire wall on Main Street isn't until 60 Main St. The fire department said six years ago, it won't fight an interior fire in the Wiss, but will only fight it from the outside, according to DeLooze.
"The number one responsibility of you five people is the safety of the people of this community," DeLooze said at the start of his statement, and concluding, "I have a very big concern that if that thing ever did catch fire, my building is possibily going to be in danger also. So I'm asking you as a former mayor, please do the right thing and have the thing taken down as quickly as possible."
DeLooze also questioned the historical value of the Wiss, and fellow Main Street property owner Jack Hempfling questioned its esthetic value.
"Most of the younger generation I talk to would feel like Walgreens and the Bank of Castile are the best looking things on Main Street," Hempfling said. "They're certainly not historical, but they (replaced the) eyesores that were taken down. Regardless of what anybody is talking about doing with the Wiss, it's still going to be one of the remaining eyesores in Le Roy.
"They say they're caring for the community. Some of us would think caring for the community isn't keeping it looking like it was in the 1930s. Some of us would say caring for the community is bringing it down and widening the intersection."
Lisa Compton said that since talk of saving the Wiss made the news, it's drawn interest from members of the Genesee County Landmark Society and the NYS Landmark Society, that even a trustee in Bethany has expressed an interest in investing in the project.
While the Wiss itself isn't historical, the structure could play an important role -- and losing it could diminish the chances -- of declaring the village a historic district.
"It's a significant part of the district," Compton said.
Mayor Rogers said he was only looking at the Wiss as a business proposition, which is why he put considerable time into drafting a counterproposal for the LLC to purchase the building.
"While their vision for the Wiss Hotel is nowhere shape or form what mine is, but from what I'll call a business standpoint, we always hear from people who tell you what they can't do, but very seldom do you hear from people who tell you what they can do," Rogers said. "We have people here who are the latter, who are willing to take a chance, who have invested their own money already and, quite frankly, if successful, would save the village $200,000.
"I don't believe they are looking to renovate the building to have the building be the eyesore it is now," Rogers added. "If somebody were to look into the future and think that's their vision, just to have the doors open over there, I would like to think in no way shape or form that's the ideal they have coming."
Rogers' counteroffer included a specific timetable for the LLC to meet, such as being legally formed, securing financing, taking possession of the building, shoring up safety issues and beginning renovations, as well as paying the village $10,000 once a certificate of occupancy was issued.
One of Tucci's objections to the project was that he didn't think the LLC could successfully rent the apartments. Fussell said there would be more market research done before the final floor plan was completed and if the market couldn't sustain five more expensive apartments, then seven could be put into the space at a lower monthly rent. Rogers pointed out that what the LLC did with the building once it owned it wasn't really a matter of village business.
When he called for a motion to approve the counteroffer, Jennifer Keys made the motion, but there was no second, so it died for lack of support.
Talk of possible ground contaminates that could drive up the demolition costs, perhaps to $500,000, almost had Bonaquisti convinced to back the sale to the LLC, but others pointed out that there is no evidence of ground contaminates under the Wiss.
With the counteroffer killed, Tucci made a motion to have the building demolished. This was amended to see requests for proposal to find out exactly how much it would cost the village to tear down the Wiss.
This motion passed 3-2, backed by Tucci, Taylor and Bonaquisti.
Photo: Bob Fussell.
I want to clarify one point about my comments on the historical district part. Mr. DeLooze had asked whether the success of the business plan for the Wiss was dependent on having a National Historical designation for the building (no it isn't - but it does make it a stronger plan- with faster payback - and who wouldn't want free money?).
As Mr. DeLooze then went on to say, it is not that historically important a building. Others have pointed this out too - it is not a particularly unique building from an architectural standpoint, and I agree that probably wouldn't qualify for anything on its own, but I have been told it most probably would qualify in a district (the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts idea). Because of it's placement, it may also be an important piece . If the building is razed, it may lessen the chance of establishing something in the Main St. area for owners who might want a establish a State/National historic district in the future.
I especially want to note that we are talking about the State and National Register of Historic Places, where a listing does NOT preserve a building or tell owners to do anything at all to their properties (even if the Wiss were in one now, it could still be torn down). This designation just opens up funding streams and generates tax benefits if you do decide to do repairs a certain way. I think it is a kind of win-win situation to have the option.
if i read that right,the building has been empty for 30 years....everybody that wants to save that building has had plenty of time to do something with it.....out with the old and in with the new......time to haul it to the landfill....
What the heck. Tear it down to create space for a drug store. There's always a need for another drug store. Just look at the City of Batavia.
The situation with the Wiss is not new. Last February and March, a group of people first started to explore the options of the LLC and potential renovation of the Wiss. Eleven months later, nothing is significantly different. In the meantime, the building is suffering through another freeze/thaw situation with snow and ice causing continued degradation of the roof and structure. All experts admit that although the building can be saved, it has become unsafe in it's current condition. I personally have walked two sides of the building. Windows are pulling from the veneered brick and one wall is leaning ever so slightly towards Rt. 19. Time has run out. The potential LLC is not ready to pull the trigger and the Village Board needs to pull the trigger. As much as renovation might be the more cost effective solution to the Village, waiting any longer seems to be a safety crap shoot. I personally think the Village Board made the right decision. This is not a criticism but had the LLC acted more expeditiously with their fiscal solutions and more concrete plans, maybe another decision could have been made prior to more degrading weather.
Subject to soil remediation, as long as the demolition occurs without disruption of the soil, no remediation should be necessary. Tear the structure down and leave the soil untouched. If the soil is disrupted or allowed to be disrupted, the estimates for demolition are very much understated.
I know it seems like things have gone on for too long, but then again it seemed that way with the pool too. The LLC has been working to gauge interest and get people involved since before their initial offer in November. There are at least 10 people I can think of off of the top of my head who have expressed interest in this project, some are owners of other buildings on Main Street. The engineer tells us (The Village Board) that the building is “not in imminent danger of collapse” (in the written report) and that it has another 1-2 years left in it. The counter offer that died last night, for those who were not present to hear it first hand, gave the LLC 6 months to get things in order. Written into the contract were several outs that could be used by either party during those 6 months. At any time during those 6 months and at the 6 month mark The Village Board could still tear down the building, well within the 1-2 years that it is believed to have left in it.
This debate is about the bigger picture. At what point do we stop the destruction of Main Street? The Wiss is a book end building that is still able to be remediated. We need book ends. Once the book ends are removed the books collapse. “When” the Wiss is gone what will be the next building? We need to have more vision for the future and preservation of the past.
What do you see when you look at other communities that have revitalized? I see old buildings that have been rehabbed to fit modern day use. Old buildings are what make a community attractive. If we as a community truly want to revitalize and attract new people to come in and pay taxes then we have to stop tearing everything down. This works in other municipalities. It can in ours too, but we need to move away from dragging our feet and tearing things down and towards having completed ready spaces.
This project is down to the bare bones of asking for people to simply take a leap of faith and trust the project organizers. That is all that it costs the Village Board. If it works, FABULOUS. If it doesn’t, then we can still spend the money to tear it down.
I’d also like to point out that the building has not been empty for 30 years. It went empty about the time my family and I moved to Le Roy, around 6 years ago. What Howard didn’t put in here is that among other things I also pointed out that each of us has been in the building all the way to the third floor. Even if the roof hasn’t been repaired in 30 years (which is what Jim said) the floors are solid on the third floor. I don’t know about you, but the china cabinets in my old house rattle when we walk by them… on the first floor … without a leaky roof.
<< Last February and March, a group of people first started to explore the options of the LLC and potential renovation of the Wiss>>
Tom, this statement is inaccurate. What took place in February and March of last year was a general "Main Street" talk, not a discussion about the Wiss. The idea of a community LLC was part of an overall strategy of how communities could help their Main Streets and talked about in general terms. The most stressed idea was that the community needed a group dedicated to Main Street .
Stemming from those meetings, several months later (May/June), the Board appointed a group to look at issues involving Main St. When issues were starting to be prioritized, the Wiss, obviously stood out.
From this, an independant group formed over the summer that was interested in finding out the real condition of the building, and commissioned a report to see if it was worth any effort using the community LLC investment strategy. The building was inspected in late August and the resulting study came out in September.The prospects looked favorable, and there was indication of investment interest, so a proposal was written and submitted in late October to the Board. More discussion about the community LLC took place in November.
There was negative response to some aspects of the proposal, so it was rewritten and resubmitted. Having looked at the proposal, The Board opened a up a meeting in early December to generate discussion about the proposal and asked for time to consider it. They wanted their engineers to look at the building. Which took us to last night's meeting. The investment group could not very well move forward with anything if there was no permission/political will to do so.
So, a lot did happen; unfortunately things sometimes don't happen really fast when you have to wait for twice a month meetings! (and holidays)! It's no one's fault. The group was working in good faith, and thought (and still thinks) a rehab plan could save a significant amount of money for the Village.
Should the Wiss be torn down, the building adjacent to it that was completely rehabbed and housed "Med Ex Billing" before the new facility East of the village was built would make a great "book end". The Perry Business District is on the path to revitalization, but as you drive along Main Street you will see that buildings were torn down there as well, for the same issues that now exist in the Wiss. I noticed today as I passed through the Springville Business District that there are two older buildings on their Main Street also slated for eventual demolition. Preservation and demolition can be part of the same revitalization project.
Why not focus on far more viable assets? In addition to the Creekside, the former Pontillo's building now sits empty. Either would seem to be a perfect starting point to me.
Yes, it's a gorgeous building! What happens when someone decides it's no longer up to snuff?
That's the point.
The other buildings you discuss are privately owned and their owners are aware of the still forming LLC's current and proposed efforts. This discussion isn't on the merrit of the project itself or on what else can be done. This discussion is about preventing the further destruction of Main Street AND people having put forth their time and effort to take a problem off of the Village's hands.
In addition, this building could become the anchor business that our Main Street does not have. (1/11/13)
Maybe the village board wants to see that corner lot back on the tax rolls as soon as possible.By tearing it down and making the site in sellable shape to put a new building on it.
We have many amazing businesses on Main Street that I frequent and promote.
When you look at a community like Caledonia they have an anchor in the Gigglin' Pig which draws people from all over. Once there they also frequent the other stores. The Wiss is referred to as an "eye sore" by many. This group of people is talking about fixing it up to make it look nice (don't say it can't be done, that's a matter of opinion) to draw people off of 19 and in from 5 to the rest of Main Street. When walking Main Street this morning one thought I had is that it would be so easy to paint the exposed wood to tie into the building next door to draw your eye directly down Main Street and make it more unified.
Activity in the Wiss alone will help revitalize Main Street. It will draw the attention of those passing by. Currently in it's empty state it does nothing, but if it were filled and vital it would do a great deal. That is the vision of this group.
i have followed this wiss building for sometime and think its being one sided or all the facts are not in. publishing the evaluation report would go along way in helping me and many others to also evaluate the job being performed by are elected trusties, and to draw a conclusion on.either way any one looks at it its taken to long for action either by the village or the formation of an llc. iam just tired of everyone passing the buck if the building is in bad shape with the roof , swollen floors ,broken windows ,mold ,rodents , cracks in cement etc etc.then its time to move forward and tear down that building if it looks ,smells and reeks of problems lets get rid of it.i for one thing i would not rent an apartment on busy street corner across the street from the loud fire whistle,plus were are all the tenants suppose to park walgreens ha or main street during the winter,what about the people shopping leroy were they going to park if spaces are taken by renters.
i think also the village made the biggest mistake and letting the owners walk away scott free . the average joe would have had law suits against him, but leroys elected people let them go , with slap on the hand. is that the real way are elected people are suppose to do for the people or is this board ready to take action instead of passin the buck.all of us are in this because of past village goverment not making the right moves at least this village goverment is willing to take action
I would hope your group sets the bar a little higher than that. The village of Caledonia hasn't had a thriving downtown business district since I graduated high school there and that was back in the days of disco.
"Moonwinks" is gone, and the building that housed was razed. "Doley's Clothing" is gone, the storefront is empty (again). "Community Outfitter's" is gone, the building is vacant (again). "D'Angelo's 5 & 10" is gone and the building is presently being used by a small church. The hardware store next to "The Village Inn" is gone, although the antique store that took its place has managed to make a go of it. In fact, other than "the Cozy Kitchen" I believe it's the only store front on the North side of W. Main St. that hasn't turned over every year or so. Speaking of the "Gigglin' Pig" how much longer do you think it will be before their entire operation moves out to the vastly larger space they now have out of Route 5 in what was the Baptist Church & School? (I know they say differently but; "no plans at this time" has a habit of being alot like; "closed for renovations".)
Howard, I have not lived in Le Roy for more years than I want to think about (40) and the question I have is...if the LLC bought this property and fell on hard times, make sure they have a bond to tear it down and be done with it. The village has just saved the taxpayers a ton of money and there is a good chance to get the building back to life. The Wiss is not the most desirable piece of property but if treated with love and care could be brought back to a liveable condition..
PS Debbie and I are still ticked about the Eastern Star building being torn down for Walgreens