The Village Board should accept the Le Roy LLC's offer because, if for no other reason, their offer will cost the Village taxpayer the least (nothing at all in fact). We expect the Village Board to make decisions that are logical in every other area. I would hope we wouldn't expect any less of them here. Good synopsis Jennifer.
Submitted by Jennifer Keys on January 31, 2013 - 5:22pm
There has been much discussion about the Wiss Hotel on the corner of Routes 19 & 5 in the Village of Le Roy for a few years, but lately the level of discussion has increased. As I did with the pool 2 years ago I would like to try to outline where we are at right now.
About 15-months ago the Village acquired the building known as the Wiss, including the two store fronts on Route 5 that lead up to the tattoo shop, Blood Money, Inc. We advertised it as make an offer and hoped to have the situation resolved (sell the building or demolish it) by one year after acquisition, November 2012. A few potential buyers have gone through it, but no offers were made.
As demolition appeared imminent in August 2012 a concerned group of local citizens put their money together to hire Rick Hauser, of In.Site :Architecture, an expert in the field of rehabilitation and revitalization, to go through the building to evaluate it and produce a feasibility study. He went through the building along with his associate, Mayor Rogers, Bob Fussell, representatives from the DPW, and me (Trustee Keys). Rick and his associate went through the entire building from the basement to and including on the roof. The first hand knowledge they acquired from going through the structure combined with some research conducted about surrounding properties allowed them to put together a feasibility study that first determined the building was worth saving, and second, that with about $1,000,000 in investment (in kind services, cash, and loans) it was likely to break even relatively quickly and turn a profit in a few years. Rick also made drawings of a restored Wiss, showing commercial establishments, and several gorgeous apartments, most 2 stories, taking up the second and third floors of the building. Because the report was favorable and people surfaced who said they would be willing to invest in the project – including Bryan Colton, a local owner of a company that restores buildings that suffer severe damage from fire and water and who will bring it back up to code - the group submitted an offer to purchase the Wiss on November 2, 2012. By this point the Village Board had been told that it would cost between $178,000 and $250,000 dollars to demolish the building, so the purchase offer was worth discussing and delayed decision.
The original offer included a $1 purchase price and request for a loan from the Village in the amount that would have been expended for demolition. There was a great deal of discussion around this and it was decided that tax payer money would not be loaned to anyone to do this. The group then came back with another offer 0n December 7 that excluded the loan from the Village and increased the amount to be raised by investors.
After the second offer was received Mayor Rogers put together a counter offer that was believed to be palatable to both the Village Board members and the group of people who wanted to purchase the building. At our January 9th Board meeting this offer died. By January 9th the Village Board had been presented with a written engineering report that was requested from Clark Patterson Lee after their engineer went through the building that in addition to outlining every detail that needs to be taken care of in order to stabilize the building, also stated that the building is “not in imminent danger of collapse” and stabilization with rehab is a legitimate option. Different interpretations of the report raised concerns over safety and by a vote of 3-2 it was decided that the Board should seek bids to demolish the building. In addition to the safety concerns, several board members wanted to see more action taken to make the LLC an officially recognized entity, and wanted $10,000 upon closing (rather than 1 year of the issuance of a certificate of occupancy).
As a result, before the January 23rd board meeting the group filed with the state and became a legally recognized LLC, Le Roy NY LLC, and submitted a new offer that set closing at on or before four months after acceptance of the offer, $10,000 upon closing, and no contingencies for anyone going on the roof prior to closing (which was part of previous discussions). The offer was submitted on January 23rd and discussed at the meeting, though no decisions were made as not everyone was present and we had not had time to review it in its entirety. At the same meeting a local businessman verbally offered $125,000 cash for the empty lot after the Village demolishes the building. This has subsequently been put into writing.
What we have before us now is an offer from a group of people who have leapt over every hurdle placed in their way and who have been negotiating transparently in the open with us for several months and gives the Village extra money to potentially use for safety concerns in other areas of the business district versus an offer that was recently made that requires the Village to first expend money to remove the building and does not break even versus tear it down without a plan. By the way the demolition bills keep racking up-we must first pay for an asbestos survey before we can put it out to bid for demolition. When combined with the verbal estimates prior to the survey we are now looking at about $182,000-$254,000 to demolish and we do not have an answer yet about the need for asbestos abatement.
There has been a great deal of discussion since the original offer was made by the group of people in November. The arguments against selling and for demolition have included; it is an “eye sore”, it is ugly, the corner needs to be fixed, why this building, why now, it is a hazard, it has no historical value, we have too many apartments, there is not enough parking, young people do not like old buildings, there are other buildings worth saving, what will happen when the LLC does not succeed. The arguments for selling have included; every building is worth saving as long as it is sturdy (especially on Main Street), it is a better economic deal for the Village tax payers (to sell), there is a group of people who have stepped up and already used their own money to get this far, it is time to stop demolishing Main Street.
I think it is important that people know that the Village is not able to fix the corner for truck traffic. It is owned by the State and that the DOT has been taking money away from our area of the state, so there is no guarantee that it will be addressed if the building is gone. In addition, there may be another way to address the problem that has not yet been discussed. The rest of the arguments against are really all a matter of personal opinion. For example, many people who look at the building see its beauty and what they can do to tie it into Main Street, such as painting the wood and adding cornices to match Bill Kettle’s building on the other end of the block.
At this point the bottom line may not even be the need to save old buildings, but to do what makes the most business sense for our community. One scenario makes us, in effect, $192,000-$264,000 when you combine the $10,000 purchase fee along with keeping the demolition and asbestos survey fees, the other two cost us money without a clear plan as to what to do next.
You are now up to date. I tried to stay brief. If you do not feel comfortable commenting/discussing in this open forum please feel free to email me privately at TrusteeKeys@rochester.rr.com. Thank you for taking the time to read this and discuss it. Your opinions are appreciated. As always, Howard Owens, thank you for hosting this blog.
There has been considerable thought given to the responses to this article about the future of The Wiss Hotel. And the January 23rd Village Board meeting was informative. I applaud The Batavian for reporting on it fully and fairly. Le Roy needs a means for people living in Le Roy to stay fully informed about issues that could affect their quality of life, and their wallets.
I have a few reactions to what was said at the Village Board meeting 1/23/13. Of foremost concern is the safety of residents and businesses adjoining the vacant Wiss. I realize that it has deteriorated in recent years. It needs roof repairs, and the Fire Chief Tom Wood has decided that the Fire Department will not go into the building if there is a fire. But, I remember not too long ago, our voting to buy a new fire truck with extension ladders that could fight a fire if it were to occur by extending over a building such as The Wiss, as it could over any tall buildings here. And, we have plenty of other equipment in the Fire Department to come up alongside any of the windows of The Wiss and fight a fire through them. I wonder, what in The Wiss, a building devoid of electricity, natural gas, or any other service to it, would make it a danger as far as a fire is concerned in the next few months.
Also, I remember that The Wiss burned quite a lot on the inside in the 1990s when it was full of occupants. I assume the Fire Department went inside then, rather than possibly fighting the fire from outside, and maybe that’s why the fire didn’t affect the neighbors. But the fact that it did burn and did not spread might suggest that it won’t spread if something happens now. And we have had other buildings on Main Street burn to the ground in past years when we had much less technology or expertise to fight them, and it appears those fires were contained to one building per fire. Maybe they were built with enough of a firewall to prevent a fire from spreading. Maybe a hole can be drilled into the wall between The Wiss and the adjoining building to find out what is there. Knowing how buildings and houses used to be constructed, it’s probably a few feet thick of multiple layers of brick is between The Wiss and the adjoining building. .
I applaud Bill Farmer for his continuing work to resurrect The Creekside Inn. But, consider this, that building burned out completely from the inside, and some outside and it did do some damage to the neighboring building, but how much? Maybe any amount is too much, if it is your property that is next door, but the potential for this exists everywhere. The fire that destroyed The Creekside was likely caused by the fact that it was occupied, not because it wasn’t. There was a restaurant there, and tenants there. The Wiss is in a perfect location for the Le Roy Police and the Le Roy Fire Department, being right across the street, to watch over it no matter what decision the Village Board makes regarding it. We and its neighbors allow The Creekside to remain empty, and are patient with the work that needs to be done there. Why wouldn’t we be equally patient with the Le Roy LLC who wants to pay us $10,000 for The Wiss and put $200,000 for starters into this building?
Another issue is the cost if the Village takes it upon itself to hire a firm to tear it down. Do our Village residents really want to pay $146,000 to $212,000, even $280,000 to accomplish this, knowing that asbestos and contamination remediation are likely to need doing, which could increase the cost even more? If the cost were kept to $212,000 or $280,000, I’d be surprised. And I think anyone knows that taxes will go up to pay for it. This property, if torn down by the Village, should continue as Village owned property, if this is the fate of The Wiss. If the land is worth $250,000 as one business man suggests, than there is no harm in holding onto it indefinitely to insure the Village doesn’t lose its shirt as it has so many times, as one commenter refers to the Village’s “profit seeking.” And as for others looking to the Village to vote for their interests, and their private speculation on The Wiss property, while their ideas may be good ones, there is no other plan for The Wiss property on the table, flushed out as Rick Hauser and the Le Roy LLC has (Hauser a proven developer and rehabilitator of Main Streets in small towns such as Perry). Only the Le Roy LLC has a plan. No other plan for the property has been made public.
As for the issue of Walgreen’s because it replaced privately owned houses and buildings, this wasn’t an issue the Village could fight. Did the Village Board have an approved comprehensive plan saying that this development couldn’t occur as it did? While, I can understand and appreciate a previous group who developed a comprehensive plan for Le Roy, and the frustration the members must feel that it wasn’t enacted, the fact is what happened with Walgreen’s was a private decision made lawfully. The Wiss, however, is owned by the Village and therefore what happens there is a public decision. Secondly, the money offered the owners of the land where Walgreen’s is was so great, there was no competing by anyone else, with an idea to preserve any of what was there. Even if any of it had historic preservation status, this would not have prevented what happened there. It was a foregone conclusion that this was going to happen, and it’s a tribute to some of the individuals who have fond memories of what was there, who can go on, shop at Walgreen’s and not only be optimistic about Le Roy’s future, but work at it ensuring Le Roy has a future.
But, I do have a question about numbers shared with us by the Village Board at Wednesday’s meeting. The taxes seem lacking that were reported to be paid to the Village by Walgreen’s if they amount to only $9,400 a year. I thought that the Village taxes are being paid by the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) and are much more than $9,400. That I believe was printed in The Daily News. Yet it is true, that Walgreen’s provides jobs, and brings in sales tax as well, which filters back to us from the County. I was in favor of Walgreen’s even though my family had a lot of history with The Masonic Temple which was torn down to make room for it.
It was inevitable that Walgreen’s establish opposite The Wiss, but it isn’t inevitable as to what happens to The Wiss. The Wiss is on an opposite corner, establishing the beginning of a block of stores that define the north side of Main Street. It is likely not historic in a preservation sense, but a lot of history has gone down there. And there is a registered LLC that is willing to buy the building and has verbal commitments of $200,000 to get started, the willingness to fix the roof and make the building safe in the short-term (more quickly than a demolition company can be hired and the job done). The LLC will prevent the Village having to spend our tax dollars to tear it down. The revitalization of The Creekside started with a new roof, and so can The Wiss. I urge residents to speak up about this rather than write a larger check for their Village taxes when that time comes once again.