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Wiss Hotel

November 15, 2013 - 4:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel, Lathan Tree Service.

Where the Wiss Hotel once stood this holiday season will stand a huge amount of Christmas cheer thanks to Andrew Lathan, owner of Lathan Tree Service, and his family.

The Lathans are donating a 30-foot tall artificial Christmas tree to the community.

Businesses and families are asked to provide ornaments to the tree. The ornament should have a name or business logo on it.

Ornaments can be dropped off at Town Hall by the end of November.

Ornaments should be at least 6-inches tall. 

"This is a very large tree," the Lathans note. It will be as tall as the existing buildings on the west end of Main Street.

The tree will be lit Dec. 7 as part of the community's holiday celebration.

Pictured are Jack, Jay, Aubrey and Carrie Lathan with the unassembled tree.

May 7, 2013 - 10:57am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel, Presbyterian Church of Le Roy.

At one meeting about the future of the Wiss Hotel building, Trustee Jim Bonacquisti said he looked forward to driving south on Route 19 and seeing the Presbyterian Church without the Wiss blocking the view.

After the building was done, Mayor Greg Rogers said, "The other day I had the opportunity after the building was somewhat down to come up Lake Street. My personal opinion is nothing looks more inviting and I'll say more New England than to see a wooden white church with a steeple and and open porch as you drive into a community. It's pretty striking. It really kinds of shows you the place where we all live."

This is a picture taken this morning of the church from behind where the Wiss once stood.

April 24, 2013 - 11:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Ignore the rumors, whatever they may be, Le Roy Mayor Greg Rogers said tonight during a village board meeting.

If there were any offers for the now vacant lot where the Wiss Hotel once stood, he would know about it, and there have been none.

"Any time you hear a rumor, because I think I'm the guy they have to call first if they want to buy it, don't get in an uproar, because people like to start rumors."

Previously, Rogers had said that by the second meeting in April he would have a plan or an idea of a plan about what to do with the corner of Route 19 and Route 5.

The plan right now, he said, is to wait.

He wants to give the village residents six months to absorb the idea of that empty corner and present ideas about what they think should be done with it.

After six months, he will seek an outside real estate broker to get it appraised and see if there are any suitors. 

Rogers said early on the gas station chain Fast Track contacted the village, but he said he discouraged them.

"They have beautiful stores, but that's not what we're looking for," he said.

At one meeting during the debates about the Wiss, Trustee Jim Bonacquisti said he was looking forward to seeing what it would be like to drive into the village without the Wiss blocking the view of the Presbyterian Church.

"The other day I had the opportunity after the building was somewhat down to come up Lake Street," Rogers said. "My personal opinion is nothing looks more inviting and I'll say more New England than to see a wooden white church with a steeple and and open porch as you drive into a community. It's pretty striking. It really kinds of shows you the place where we all live."

Most of the responsibility for determining what happens with the corner will fall to the village and town planning board, but since the village owns the property, the trustees will have quite a bit of say about what happens with the lot.

And Rogers is mindful that whatever happens, at least half the people will be angry.

"No matter what goes there, half the people are going to be mad and you're looking at five idiots and the other half are going 'that's not so bad,' " Rogers said.

April 19, 2013 - 1:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Demolition should be largely wrapped up today.

April 18, 2013 - 3:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

On my way out of Le Roy, I stopped by the Wiss again and got there just before Tim Hens did.

I know from previous conversations, Tim was pretty interested in how a third floor was added to a wood-frame building.

It looks like the third floor was just built right on top of the roof of the original structure. What we're seeing is the back of the original structure and a portion of the added on third floor, which was built across the original structure and a later extension to the back of the building.

The other key thing -- and this picture doesn't really capture it as obviously as it is visible in person -- is how much the third floor and second floor ceiling is sagging.

Hens and Bob Lathan talked about the condition of the building a bit. As you know from our previous tour of the building, there was a sheet of ice on a large portion of the third floor.

Lathan said since then we've have a few thaws and refreezes.

Hens said ice weighs as much as concrete.

Lathan said the string he had stretched through the second floor to measure settling of the building had dropped 3/4 of an inch in the last month.

Though Hens said it's just his opinion and not scientific, based on what he observed today, he doesn't think the building would have lasted through another winter.

Hens said it probably still would have taken a developer gutting the building to accurately access the soundness of the structure.

April 18, 2013 - 1:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Just a photo to show the progress of the Wiss Hotel demolition.

April 17, 2013 - 12:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Crews have spent the morning getting the demolition site ready for removing the former Wiss Hotel building from the corner of Main and Lake streets in Le Roy.

The first backhoe whack at a wall will take place sometime after lunch hour.

A supervisor for Empire Dismantlement Corp. said demolition starts at the back of the building and works toward the front. First order of business is to make room for dump trucks to park on the building site.

By Saturday, crews should be ready to take down the front facade. When they get to that point, Main Street will need to be closed for a time.

The building is being taken down "hot," meaning that any existing asbestos in the building has not been removed prior to demolition.

We've also learned that the iron awning that was on the west side of the building has been removed. The owners of the Smokin' Eagle (formerly the Eagle Hotel, and soon to be the last standing old hotel in the Village) plan to use it on their back entrance. Demolition crews will recover the chains that held it to the Wiss when demolition gets to that point.

UPDATE 4:36 p.m.: Had to leave Le Roy a little earlier than anticipated because of the situation at the middle school, but did snap a couple shots following the start of actual demolition.

April 16, 2013 - 5:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Contractors will arrive in the Village of Le Roy tomorrow to start demolition of the former Wiss Hotel building, Mayor Greg Rogers confirmed.

Tomorrow, work crews will begin prep work.The entire demolition process is expected to take about a week.
 

April 14, 2013 - 2:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Submitted by Bob Fussell:

It’s a mystery.

On 3-13-13 three trustees voted “no” to sell the Wiss Hotel to the Le Roy LLC for $10,000, and “yes” to pay a Grand Island demolition company $132,000 to destroy the building. The Board also paid almost $4,000 for an asbestos removal study, and will pay between $5,000 and $10,000 more to another company to monitor the air quality during the demolition, making a hit to the taxpayers of at least $151,000, and that’s only what they’ve committed to spend so far.

But it seems that only those three know why they cast those votes. (One of the “no” voters is a member of the Conservative Party, and another is a Republican - parties that say they strongly oppose spending taxpayer dollars.)

One of the three said, about his community, “we’ve gotten better” after other Village buildings were demolished. But, he didn’t tell us if Village taxpayer paid for those demolitions, or present any proof that Le Roy actually got “better” because of the demolitions.

Many Le Royans disagree with that trustee. They believe the demolition of those older buildings is, instead, directly related to our economic decline that’s been spiraling downward at an ever-increasing rate over the last 50 years. This decline, many believe, began decades ago when a mansion was demolished and replaced with what is now Save A Lot.

All three of the “no” voters said they gave the issue “a lot of thought” -- one claiming he “lost sleep over it.” Others claimed they spoke to a lot of “people” about the issue.

But what “people” did they talk to? And, what expertise and knowledge did these people have that convinced the three to vote to demolish?

Taxpayers don’t know the answers to those important questions because the three won’t answer them. (I specifically asked them and they refused to disclose the names of the people they spoke to, as if they were members of a secret club, instead of elected officials in a free and open democracy. I asked them to tell me who they spoke to, because all three admitted they aren’t experts in demolition or rehabilitation, so they had to get their knowledge and information from others.)

All three admit they “respect” the “hard work” done by the LLC. But, of course, that’s because the LLC earned their respect by doing much hard work, such as:

Hiring an outstanding architect to do a study to answer important questions, such as  - (1) Is the structure of the Wiss too far gone to save? And (2) Can the restored building be profitable for investors?

That architect, Rick Hauser, could be the best person in Western New York to answer those questions. He not only obtained a master's degree in architecture from one of the top three architectural schools in America, the University of Virginia, after graduating from Cornell, and teaching architecture at Hobart University, but also, most importantly, has rehabbed buildings that were in much worse condition than the Wiss, and did it in a way that revitalized communities.

Former Le Roy mayor Jim DeLoose said in a comment on The Batavian that, “Le Roy has a very low-median income …. What a developer is willing to spend in Le Roy is much different than what they’re willing to spend in Fairport where the median income is approximately 3 times that of Le Roy’s.” This is an admission that Le Roy has reached such a sorry state of financial decline, that we can’t stand up to Walgreens and get it to construct an architecturally appealing building in our community –the kind of pharmacy stronger communities would require it to build. Our squat WALGREENS building, with its huge, bright neon signs, tells potential newcomers that Le Roy is too weak and poor to have an attractive pharmacy and encourages people, who might otherwise want to live, and pay taxes in Le Roy, to move elsewhere. (I doubt that Fairport’s median income was 3 times that of Le Roy’s in the past. If so, why has Le Roy declined while Fairport prospered? Is it possible that Fairport is better managed than Le Roy?)

And despite what some Le Royans claim, Mr. Hauser doesn’t need the Wiss, or Le Roy, to make a fine living. He’s got plenty of work elsewhere. Unfortunately for Le Roy, we need Rick Hauser, much more that Rick Hauser needs Le Roy.

After conducting his study, Mr. Hauser answered "no" to the first question the LLC asked him and "yes" to the second, so the LLC moved forward in its attempt to save, not just the Wiss, but Le Roy itself.

The LLC then consulted four highly respected local contractors, to investigate the issue -- Joe Condidorio, of Whitney East, Jerry McCoullough, of Ryan, Bryan Colton, of Master Care, and Jim Sickles, of Sickles Corporation. All investigated and agreed the project was doable, and showed interest in the restoration project.

The LLC also prompted research into the question of the owner of the land where the Wiss is located and learned that the State owns part of it, and that once the Wiss is demolished the size of the portion of land left for the construction of a new building will be smaller.

When the LLC asked the architect and contractors what it would cost to rebuild the Wiss after it was demolished, they said it would cost much more because, even though the building is a filthy, moldy mess, the building’s “shell” is still intact, meaning the new (smaller) building would have to be rebuilt from scratch. One contractor said that about 25% of the rehab work is already completed, because the foundation, and the rest of its shell are sound and straight.

One of the three “no” voters said he hopes the community can “respect” their decisions.

But respect is earned, and it takes more than just “thinking” and “talking” to unnamed “people” to earn the respect of the taxpayers – those who will ultimately pay the upcoming huge bills.

Maybe if the three would give us details of the “work” they performed before deciding to cast their “no” votes, they might earn respect.

Maybe if they told us, for example –

  • What studies they relied upon when making their decision? (The Village engineers did a study, but that study doesn’t help them, because it concluded the building can be restored.)
  • The names of the “people” they talked to?
  • The backgrounds these “people” have in building restoration and/or community revitalization?
  • The studies these “people” conducted on the Wiss building, or on the economic condition of Le Roy?
  • The biases or prejudices these “people” might have about the restoration plan?
  • Any agendas any of these “people” might have that led them to hope to make sweet profits for themselves after taxpayers pick up the demolition tab for them?
  • Any facts showing these “people” had no confidence in Le Royans to restore the Wiss. “People” who believe Le Royans aren’t smart, driven or community-minded enough to take care of themselves or their community. ”People” who instead, hope a “Big Brother” corporate power from far away will save us. (“Corporations, who, of course, care only about enriching themselves while impoverishing us -- that is by whisking money out of local pockets and slipping it into their faraway pockets.)

Just think –What if the three “no” voters worked for an independent businessman (instead of the taxpayers of our community) whose building was in serious need of repair and had the choice of accepting an offer to sell it for $10,000 or spending a bare minimum of $151,000, to demolish it. And this boss trusted the three to study the question, and to make the right decision. And what if the three came back to him several months later reporting only that they had, “thought about it to the point of losing sleep” and had talked to a lot of “people” and that based on this thinking and talking they rejected the offer to sell, and signed a contract to pay $141,000 of the boss’s money to destroy the building. And when the boss asked the three to tell him the names and qualifications of the people they spoke to before making their decision, the three refused, claiming the names were confidential. How, do you think that boss would react?

In this case, we taxpayers are the bosses of those three. What should we do with them?

It’s great that Le Royans are very concerned about their History.
But, don’t you think it's time we get as involved in our future as we are in our past?

March 14, 2013 - 9:36am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

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."

March 13, 2013 - 2:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

The fate of the Wiss Hotel will likely be decided tonight in a regular meeting of the Village of Le Roy trustees.

On the agenda for the 7 p.m. meeting is a discussion and likely vote on whether to accept a bid for the destruction of the building.

Mayor Greg Rogers said the trustees will go into closed session first, to both discuss the offer from the Le Roy, New York LLC for purchase and restoration of the former Wiss Hotel building and to review confidential background information on the companies that bid on demolition.

After the closed session, Rogers said he'll open the public meeting and ask the trustees to make a motion that will address the options before the board -- sell to the LLC or accept a demolition bid.

The bids covered three options for demolition -- complete demolition and removal; demolition with removal by village trucks for non-asbestos materials, and taking the building down "hot," meaning no asbestos remediation prior to demolition.

The third option will require the village to condemn the building just prior to demolition.

The lowest bid for #1 is $192,000 from Empire Dismantle and the high bid was from $346,000 from Regional Environmental Demo. A total of seven bids were received for option #1.

On option #2, there were six bids, with the lowest being $172,000 from Empire Dismantle, the highest was $426,000 from Frederico Construction.

For option #3, the lowest of 10 bids was also from Empire Dismantle at $132,000. The highest bid was 271,700 from Ritter and Paratore.

February 28, 2013 - 7:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

The Wiss Hotel building was once again a topic of discussion at the Village of Le Roy Trustees meeting last night. I was unable to attend because of all the trash talk at the Batavia City Council meeting, so I called Mayor Greg Rogers and LLC proponent Bob Fussell for their take on the meeting.

The meeting started with a presentation by Town of Batavia Code Enforcement Officer Dan Lang (who is mentoring new Town of Le Roy Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Steinbrenner). Lang recommended going through the process of declaring the building an unsafe structure.

Former mayor Jim DeLooz gave about a 10-minute presentation on the Wiss and the likelihood it could be restored. DeLooz is against saving the building. The presentation was well documented and well prepared, Rogers said.

Jerry McCullough, a local contractor, also spoke. He favors saving the Wiss building and believes it can be restored. Fussell said McCullough has experience with building restoration and has said he's taken on projects in much rougher shape than the Wiss.

Joe Condidorio, from contractor Whitney East, also spoke in favor of saving the Wiss and expressed concern that once the Wiss comes down, other buildings will come with it, damaging the character of the village.

"I think it was very important that Joe Condidorio and Jerry McCullough spoke and spoke in support of the idea that restoration is very doable," Fussell said. "They are very well respected in the community."

Bill Farmer, who has his own restoration project in progress at the Creekside Inn, also spoke in favor of saving the Wiss, saying it was important to preserve the character of the village, Rogers said. Fussell said Farmer was very critical of the destruction of the buildings that were removed to build the Walgreens. 

Farmer did not address the status of his own project.

There were also other speakers in favor of saving the Wiss.

Fussell described the trustees as interested and engaged in the conversation.

"It was a very comfortable meeting," Fussell said. "It was non-confrontational and very relaxed."

He said the LLC supporters there came away feeling it was the most positive meeting to date about the Wiss.

There is an RFP in place for contractors to bid on taking down the Wiss building. Contractors are scheduled to tour the building tomorrow, Rogers said, and that's the last time there will be people allowed inside the building until this issue is resolved.

Bids are scheduled to be opened at 3 p.m., March 8, at the Le Roy Village Hall.

February 23, 2013 - 5:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Letter to the Editor:  I have been asked to weigh in on The Wiss Hotel’s future by a member of the Le Roy, NY LLC, who wants to renovate The Wiss for high-end apartments, and storefronts. First, I want everyone to know that I am not an investor in the LLC. I have no interest in the property upon which The Wiss sits if it’s torn down. My interest is that of every property owner in the Village of Le Roy who may be faced with having taxes we paid used to tear down The Wiss. 

The Village Taxpayers -- Actually, the future of The Wiss itself is of little or no importance to me. My concern is that the Village trustees have voted 3-2 to seek bids to demolish the building. Some people in Le Roy may think it’s about time, but how many of us are taking the time to realize that this could cost Village property taxpayers between $148,000 and $250,000 to accomplish? And these numbers were estimated prior to an asbestos removal study which would likely increase the cost. The answer I’ve gotten from one Village trustee is that the Village has the money that we’ve paid previously in taxes to accomplish tearing down The Wiss. 

Is The Wiss Property Worth More As A Lot Given the Cost to Village Taxpayers? -- My question I posed to the Village Board in January was why would the Village taxpayers pay to tear down The Wiss? Some of the trustees apparently see that the property will be worth more with The Wiss gone than it is now. I think this is an unfounded assumption. The space taken up by The Wiss and the adjoining storefront is not big enough for any development on the scale of what current developers need, such as what was needed when Walgreens bought up at least three houses, one old gas station and a store in back, the Milliman Block of storefronts, and the historic Masonic Temple for their facility. 

Village Has Received Offers for The Wiss As Is, and When Torn Down & Filled In -- The Village has gotten an offer of $125,000 for the property once the Village tears down The Wiss and fills in the hole, and this individual says the property is worth $250,000. If there were no other parties interested in The Wiss than maybe we as a village would have to tear it down. But what about The Creekside Inn, that has been vacant for years, and I don’t hear any concern about it? Fortunately, the developer there intends on completing The Creekside. But The Wiss, too, has a developer interested in saving it, the Le Roy, NY LLC. The LLC is a group of citizens I understand who are mainly from our community, who want to renovate The Wiss and are willing to pay the village $10,000 for it. In addition they promise to immediately fix the roof, and take care of any concerns about its impact on the neighboring buildings, and to spend $400,000 renovating the building. A feasibility study has been done, which I believe figures in The Wiss getting historic status, which has been called into question because the exterior facade is not original and the inside has apparently been gutted of anything historically significant. But, this is a private venture, and if the investors know this and still think it a good investment, who is the Village Board to stand in their way? 

A Village Trustee Is Worried About Investors in a Wiss Private Enterprise -- One trustee in a recent article on the subject of The Wiss, said he was against saving The Wiss because by doing so we as a village would be encouraging the members of the LLC to invest in the building, only to lose their investment. My opinion is that that should not be the concern of the Village Board. Once the property is owned by the LLC, if that happens, the LLC is a private enterprise.  For too many years the Le Roy Village boards that have come and gone and have taken all of us into one business venture or another (one notably being the failed compost facility that we’re still paying for). The Village Board has no place making private business decisions, and no place picking winners and losers in this realm. If the LLC pays the village $10,000 for the building and saves the taxpayers an additional $148,000 to $250,000 from having to tear it down, we are ahead as taxpayers and that is what we expect the Village Board to be interested in. If the LLC takes possession of the building and fails, the county and then the Village will be its owner again, but this time we’ll have a building in much better condition than it is now, and therefore we as taxpayers win. And a private investor might buy the renovated Wiss from the LLC, and it may not become the Village’s responsibility even if they do fail. This is private enterprise at work. 

Where Is the D. O. T. If The Street Is To Be Widened At the Intersection of Rt. 5 & 19? -- There have been comments made by another Village trustee that the corner needs to be altered to allow large trucks to make the turn more easily, but this is a state issue, and The Wiss has been for sale, and/or in the Village’s possession since 2005. If the state wanted to address this concern where are they? If the state gets funding in the future, I’m sure Walgreens would be only too happy to sell them some of their property to accomplish a wider street. 

Is The Wiss a Fire-Hazard? -- On the issue of whether or not The Wiss is a fire hazard, we as a village, through our fire tax, purchased a fire truck with extension ladders capable of fighting fires from above tall buildings such as we have on Main Street, and in other parts of town. Also, I’m sure our fire department has the equipment to go alongside any window of the building and fight a fire through the window(s). Our Fire Chief Tom Wood has said that he will not have his department enter The Wiss if there is a fire, in its current state. This may be a concern, but The Wiss has burned before in recent years, and I understand quite extensively when it was occupied, and it did not affect the surrounding buildings.  And where is the concern about fire here when there is no electricity and no natural gas going to this building? And modern firefighting technology can be employed by our fire department to contain a fire at The Wiss if one should occur again. And if it is so wet inside, as has been reported, what’s going to burn? 

The Creekside Inn down the street has burned a couple of times through the years, and more recently, the second time, than The Wiss fire. And The Creekside Inn was occupied by a restaurant and apartments at the time. While some damage was done to the adjoining building there, and maybe any risk is intolerable to us, a fire can occur in a house or building at any time. Whether it’s occupied or not doesn’t stop a fire. And one only has to look at the walkway between the Vintage & Vogue building and the Fusion Dance Center building, on the other side, to see that there are at least two layers of brick on either side that forms the walls there. The Wiss likely has the same layers of brick between it and the adjoining building as do the buildings on either side of the walkway. How many layers of brick make up a chimney, and what are the fire risks there? Also, there have been other buildings destroyed by fire on Main Street through the years and they’ve been contained to one building in each instance. And The Wiss is right across the street from the Le Roy Police, and the Le Roy Fire Department so an eye can be kept closely on it if the LLC buys and renovates it. 

What Could A Renovated Wiss Building Look Like? -- The Wiss is a very, very old building, and that in itself, for me, isn’t reason to keep it and renovate it.  I haven’t ever thought the building to be attractive, but with a light color paint on the brick façade, and banks apparently willing to invest in the LLC, why wouldn’t we give the LLC the chance to save this building?

Why Not Sell The Wiss to the Le Roy, NY LLC Who’s Interested In Renovating It and Possibly Save More Buildings On Main Street from the Wrecking Ball? -- Possibly other buildings will be saved around it, if The Wiss is renovated rather than torn down, and our Village will have character unlike so many places in the surrounding area where the older buildings have been torn down. Why not accept the LLC’s offer, rather than have a developer buy the lot and tear down more of our Main Street for a new structure? And how long would it take to get back the demolition costs in property tax, and from a portion of the county’s sales tax that comes back to Le Roy from a new development? How many minimum wage jobs are going to make a real difference in Le Roy that wouldn’t be possible with the existing buildings there? 

What Could The Village Do with Our $148,000 - $250,000 Instead of Tearing Down The Wiss? -- Lastly, what could the Village Board do with the $148,000 to $250,000 needed to tear down The Wiss? I understand they have an extra $250,000 in their coffers. What could the Village do with that amount of money in terms of revitalizing the creek bank in Le Roy, our signature view, by covering the stones that were placed there for erosion control? The creek bank in the public portion is an eyesore and only the village government, not private enterprise, can correct this. What about renewing the project to put old-fashioned street lights on Main Street every other light to revitalize Main Street? What about replacing sidewalks that are in very bad shape on Main Street? There are so many things that could be done with the $250,000 the Village has of our tax dollars rather than tearing a building down that a developer wants to buy and put on the tax rolls.  And while they’re at it, the Village Board could give every property owner a rebate on their taxes. Who would complain about that? Thanks for reading this letter and I trust that Village taxpayers, and interested residents of the Town, will let the Le Roy Village Board know what they want to happen with The Wiss. 

Douglas Hill, Le Roy Village Resident

February 22, 2013 - 10:55am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Nobody disputes the fact that the former Wiss Hotel building is in rough shape.

A tour of the building yesterday revealed sagging ceilings, holes in the roof, peeling and chipping paint, uneven doorways, junk and garbage strewn throughout the interior and everything of value that could be removed -- claw-foot bathtubs and the old rosewood bar, for example -- gone.

Rich Hauser, an architect from Perry and a building restoration expert, has said previously that it will take nearly $1 million to restore the Wiss. A tour such as the one we took yesterday can only confirm there's a lot of work to be done.

The dollars and cents of the issue comes down to what a potential buyer -- such as the Le Roy, NY, LLC -- might want to do with the building and whether the building is structurally sound.

A structural analysis would be required before building permits for a restoration project could be pulled, and Bob Fussell, currently heading up the LLC, said the LLC won't pay for a structural analysis until it takes title to the building.

It doesn't make financial sense, he said, to go to the expense of a structural analysis if the LLC doesn't own the building.

On the tour yesterday were Bob Lawley, Bob Lathan, village DPW supervisor, Jeff Steinbrenner, the town's new code enforcement officer, and Dan Lang, Town of Batavia code enforcement officer, who was hired by the Town of Le Roy to mentor Steinbrenner as he gets started in his new job.

Lang's recommendation to Steinbrenner is that the building be tagged ASAP as an unsafe structure under NYS Property and Maintenance Code, Section 107.

"My primary concern is that the building (be) sealed up tight so nobody gets in," Lang said. "The main issue is life safety for members of the community."

Next, the village should start the process of declaring the building a vacant structure, under NYS Fire Code Section 311.

Since there is no fire suppression system in place, as a vacant structure, the building would have to be cleared immediately of all combustible material. If the village still owns the building at that point, the village will need to pay for clean up of the interior.

Lang will discuss these points with the village board at its Wednesday meeting.

In Lang's personal opinion, he thinks restoration of the building will cost more than current estimates.

Fussell said he trusts the expert in the matter, Rich Hauser.

The condition of the building now wouldn't be much different than when Hauser examined it several months ago.

If another expert offered up an opinion that it would cost $3 million rather than $1 million, then Fussell said, his position on saving the Wiss would change. But he noted Hauser has a good deal of experience with restoration of buildings in as bad of shape as the Wiss, or worse.

With yesterday's freezing temperature, portions of stairs and floors were covered with ice, even on the second floor. On the third floor, a several square foot area was covered with about an inch-thick layer of ice.

"If it wasn't this cold, it would be drip, drip, drip, all the time," Lathan said at one point during the tour.

Tim Hens, an engineer who owns a neighboring building, said during an e-mail conversation this morning that for a full-effect tour, you really need to go in when the water isn't frozen and you hear water dripping everywhere.

While the ceilings are sagging, walking on the second and third floors yesterday didn't reveal any obvious weakness in the floors.

Hens said when there's no ice, the floors do feel squishy.

Hens wrote:

I think the only way anyone is going know whether it is structurally sound is to gut the place. That is the only way you would be able to see all the bearing walls and/or structural connections to see if there is any rotten/punky wood. In order to do that the asbestos would have to be remediated. It may be possible to save, but someone is going to have to put up about $60-80K just to find out if it can be saved.

The village has requested bids from contractors interested in tearing down the Wiss. Those sealed bids will be opened at 3 p.m., March 8, at the village hall.

Mayor Greg Rogers said if at that point, village trustees have enough information to proceed, the bids will be considered at the board's March 13 meeting.

Tom Spadaro has put an offer in writing, with conditions, to buy the Wiss property once the building is torn down for $125,000. Among Spadaro's conditions is that the ground be filled in and level and that any environmental issues be settled.

If the Wiss comes down, any future owner of the property won't be able to build on the current Wiss footprint, Lang said. The current Wiss structure is partially on a NYS DOT right of way.

Rogers said that at the March 13 meeting, if the trustees have enough information, he will ask for a motion on any one of the options available -- sell to the LLC, sell to Spadaro after the Wiss is destroyed, or take down the Wiss and keep the property for now.

For all of our previous coverage of the Wiss Hotel, click here.

February 15, 2013 - 12:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Tim Hens, who owns property neighboring the Wiss Hotel building and is an engineer and history buff, sent along this photo of the "Wiss House" circa 1900, when it was two stories with a wood exterior.

He notes it was a wood-framed building.

Is it possible that the three-story structure there now is the same two-story building with a third-story addition? Most of the frame structures built in the early 1800s were post-and-beam construction with wood siding. Very few remain in our area. It would have been difficult to add a third floor to a post-and-beam constructed building. Was there ever any history of a fire? Possibly they rebuilt on the same site?

Building permits were not required way back when, so the historical record is rather incomplete.

Hens also notes that the facade in the postcard pictures we ran the other day make it look like the facade is stacked stone.

Here's one of those postcards:

Of course, we all know the current facade is red brick.

Hens said it makes no sense to put brick in front of stacked stone and it isn't likely somebody would have removed the stacked stone to put up brick.

Thinking about this, I remembered something I read in the Lynne Belluscio article from 2005.

Hepps added the third story to the old two-story landmark and capped it off with a flat roof. He covered the exterior with metal siding.

In 1927 he replaced the siding with 'tapestry brick" veneer. He added the small one-story store to the east ...

So the Hepps-owned building we see above was probably sided with tin that was pressed to look like stacked stone.

I asked Hens if that was possbile and he said yes, but said such a facade in that era wouldn't not have weathered well.

As for adding the third floor to the wood-framed structure, compare window and door placement. The interesting thing to note is how the east end of the building isn't level with the west end in both pictures. 

However, Hens said a new building, given the slant of Main Street, could have been built the same way.

Personally, it seems to me unlikely that the building of 1900 would be so similar to the building of the 1920s if they were different buildings.

So here's something else to debate: Is the current Wiss the same building as the structure originally built at that location in 1802 (the construction date in an article Hens shared).

On another note, a caller this morning raised the issue that I haven't reported that the Le Roy, NY, LLC, isn't in a position to take immediate ownership of the building even if the village board approved the sale today.

That hasn't been an issue, at least in public statements, for the three trustees blocking the sale, but it's also true.

I confirmed with Bob Fussell this morning that there is a contingency in the LLC's offer that would give the group four months to raise funds sufficient to move forward with the project.

Fussell said he believes people have made sufficient verbal commitments to ensure the funds would be raised well within the time frame, but until the funds are committed, the LLC won't take title to the building.

February 14, 2013 - 12:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Louis Buono, top photo;
Chris and Chandy Kemp; Bill Kettle

Even Louis Buono thinks the Wiss Hotel building should be saved.

Buono owns the McDonald's franchise in the Village of Le Roy. Buono is concerned that tearing down the Wiss will hurt the character of the village and do nothing to bring more people downtown.

That outcome would hurt his business.

"I am the last person that wants empty storefronts, that’s for sure," Buono said. "I stare at them regularly and it is frustrating."

When speaking of the Le Roy, NY, LLC, Buono used the word "we" a lot and indicated he is planning to invest in restoration of the Wiss if the LLC can persuade at least one more village trustee to approve the sale of the building.

In all, five people who have never spoken up before on behalf of saving the Wiss spoke at the trustees' meeting Wednesday night.

Even Police Chief Chris Hayward, who never comments at village meetings about anything not directly related to the police department, had something to say.

Hayward doesn't favor apartments for the building -- there are enough apartments in Le Roy, he said -- but he doesn't understand why the LLC group isn't being given a chance to try and save the Wiss.

"When the mayor asked me back in March to stay on and not retire, part of our discussion was about what my motivations were for leaving and what would motivate me to stay," Hayward said. "One of the motivations I talked about for leaving was that in almost 30 years we’ve turned from a community that always worked together to get things done to a community that always looks for reason not to do things.

"Robbins Nest," he added, "we came up with reasons not to do it. The pool. We came up with reasons not to keep it open. I think we need to turn back into that community that looks for reasons to get these things done.  ... I just think we’re coming up with reasons not to do something that might have a positive impact on the community."

Another downtown property owner, Bill Kettle, said he thinks tearing down the Wiss would hurt the value of his own investment.

Kettle owns the buildings at 10 and 12 Main St. He said he's put a lot of money into restoration of those buildings and considers them the bookend -- with the Wiss being the other bookend -- to Main Street.

"My focus and concern with the Wiss is maintaining the character of Le Roy," Kettle said. "I’m very concerned about the Wiss being the fuse that will ignite a larger demolition of Main Street."

Mayor Greg Rogers, later in the meeting, pretty much confirmed what a lot of preservationists fear -- that once the Wiss goes, other buildings will be on the chopping block.

The Wiss property by itself is not big enough to attract a developer for the kind of new commercial construction that attracts investors.

“I’m not going to blow sunshine up your Kool-Aid," Rogers said. "It’s going to take more than one or two. It would take that whole corner. That parcel over there isn’t big enough for basically anything by itself."

Keeping the character of the village is also what brought Chris and Chandy Kemp to Wednesday's meeting.

The professional couple -- he's a math teacher in Rochester, she's an attorney in Buffalo -- moved to Le Roy because they were charmed by the village atmosphere.

Chris Kemp said he and his wife had never heard of Le Roy before a real estate agent drove them into town, heading east into the village on Route 5.

"We came in under the train trestle, and before that it was like, ‘yeah, whatever. It’s like Lancaster. Woopie freakin’ do,' and we came under it and, no lie, it was like the sun came out, the flowers were swaying, people were walking hand-in-hand up some kind of main street, which you can’t get anyplace else," Kemp said.

The village sold itself immediately to the couple and one of the first things they did was visit the Wiss for wings and hockey while a biker gang was hanging out there.

Both Chris and Chandy said that they worry tearing down the Wiss will start exactly the kind of domino effect described by Kettle.

"I don’t want to live in Generica," Chandy said. "I could have built a McMansion in a suburb anywhere in America. I’ve been a lawyer for 20 years. I don’t have to live here, but I want to and this is why: It’s the character. It’s the village. We don’t want to be where there’s some major development on every corner."

Many, many young professionals want to live in communities that are true communities and have character and charm, Chris Kemp said.

"We’re the people you want to have here," Chris said. "We’re the people who pay your taxes. We keep the place running. We’re the people with a little money, a little ambition, a little drive and a little common sense."

Bob Fussell Jr., spoke out, too. Of course, he said, he agrees with his dad, who is heading up the LLC effort.

"I think you would make a big mistake to tear that down," Fussell said. "I don’t want to see a Tim Horton's or some commercialized garbage sitting on that corner.  When I take my daughter on her bike down Main Street, I don’t want to take her by a Tim Horton's. I enjoy main street. I’ve lived here most of my life, and that’s just how I feel."

As the conversation became a little more free flowing, with some back-and-forth between citizens and board members, Chris Kemp and Louis Buono tried to draw out of the three trustees who oppose saving the Wiss just exactly what their thinking is.

Mike Tucci, Robert Taylor and Jim Bonacquisti, have all raised concerns about safety, the viability of saving the Wiss, and for Bonacquisti, the idea that the corner is "screaming out for retail."

Buono countered that once the LLC takes possession of the building, the safety issue is resolved. There is a contractor ready now to shore up the building and even install a fire wall, though it's questionable whether it's needed.

If safety was the issue for the three board members, he said, there would be a scaffolding and yellow tape around the building already.

Getting to the point of tearing down the building will take a lot longer than it would take the LLC to resolve the safety concerns, Buono said.

As for Bonacquisti's suggestion that the corner is "screaming out" for retail, well, Buono said, the LLC's plan includes retail on the first floor.

"It can't be safety," Buono said. "It can't be retail. The LLC takes care of both of those issues."

Kemp turned to asking trustees what they envision for the corner and Tucci said, "grass."

He said, "I see grass and picnic tables."

An idea Chris scoffed at, suggesting it wouldn't be used much with Trigon Park just down the street and Chandy noted a park there wouldn't generate tax revenue.

By the end of the meeting, neither Tucci nor Bonacquisti really answered the question of what their real objections are.

Tucci seemed to reject the idea that taking down the Wiss will lead to more buildings coming down.

"I’m not for demolishing Le Roy," Tucci said.

Taylor said he remains opposed to saving the Wiss because he doesn't believe it can be saved.

In a back and forth with Fussell Sr., Taylor admitted that he's previously said he's not an expert in construction and restoration. Fussell noted that all the experts who have looked at the building say it can be restored.

"It's just my personal opinion," Taylor said, "but I think it's the ugliest building I've ever seen."

Lisa Compton has been at every village meeting on the Wiss and supports the LLC, though she said she can't afford to invest. Just as Taylor hasn't been convinced by anything he's heard, nothing Taylor, Tucci and Bonacquisti have said changes her mind.

"I’m coming at it from a taxpayer," Compton said. "I just haven’t found a good enough reason to drop it. It makes good financial sense. I haven’t been persuaded, kind of like the other board members who are against it. I haven’t heard anything to persuade me yet that it's a bad idea."

Perhaps the most hopeful word for preservationists came at the end of the village board meeting.

Tucci said the idea of the LLC putting in office units upstairs instead of apartments appealed to him. A change in business plans could change his mind.

Taylor said he agreed with Tucci.

February 13, 2013 - 5:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Preservationists in Le Roy still think the former Wiss Hotel building can be saved from the old wrecking ball.

In interviews and conversations this week, Wiss backers said they still don't believe village trustees will want to spend six figures of taxpayer money, creating a vacant lot with an uncertain future and expense, when there is a willing and able buyer ready to step in and rehabilitate the structure.

They hope public pressure over the expenditure -- once the cost is known -- will build, and that more people will come forward both to endorse the Le Roy, NY, LLC, and to express their support for retaining some of the charm of the village.

In fact, according to Bob Fussell, more people may show up at tonight's village board meeting to let trustees know how important the issue is to them.

He said he's heard from at least two such people.

The trustees meet at 7 p.m., and since the Wiss isn't on the agenda, any remarks will come later in the meeting during the public comment time.

Meanwhile, the process of requesting bids from demolition companies was delayed a couple of weeks after village officials learned an asbestos survey was necessary before the village could publish an RFP.

Mayor Greg Rogers said the study was completed -- though he didn't immediately have available the results -- and the RFP has been publicized.

The RFP process will give trustees the truest picture yet of just how much it will cost taxpayers to demolish what is perhaps the oldest commercial building in Le Roy.

Informal estimates have ranged from $150,000 to $250,000.

The Le Roy LLC has offered $10,000 for the building and the promise to shore up the building immediately and raise $400,000 to finance restoration.It's unlikely, according to Fussell, that the building could be torn down any sooner than the LLC could shore it up and begin rehabilitation work, negating any concerns over the building's safety.

"My gut feeling is once the community understands the potential cost to demolish the Wiss, we might get a favorable vote at that point," Fussell said.

Rogers has consistently said he doesn't necessarily back the LLC's plans, but thinks their proposal makes the most business sense for the village.

When trustees see the actual price of demolition, it may persuade one or more of them to change their minds.

"I wouldn't say it's a dead deal," Rogers said.

Trustee Jennifer Keys said she's also optimistic that at least one other board member can be persuaded to support the sale of the Wiss to the LLC.

"I hold out hope that until the building is gone, somebody is going to come forward and say something that is going to resonate with other board members," Keys said.

Meanwhile, she said she feels in an odd position. A Democrat, Keys said she feels like she's to the right of some of her colleagues on the issue.

The three trustees advocating the expense of demolition are either Republicans or Conservatives.

"I'm kind of baffled," Keys said. "I must be missing something. I'm generally seen as the most liberal person on the board and I don't see why we would spend this money and not accept $10,000 for the building."

The trustees who so far been backing spending the money are Robert Taylor, Jim Bonacquisti and Mike Tucci.

We tried to reach each of the three men this week to ask a basic question: Why not give the LLC a chance to see what it can do? What's the harm in letting them try?

Taylor said his biggest concern is the people in the LLC. He doesn't think the building can be saved and the people willing to put their own money in the Wiss will lose their investment.

"It's not a question of giving them a chance," Taylor said. "My firm belief is the building is in a condemned condition and they're just pouring their money into a bottomless pit.

"I grew up in this town," Taylor added. "I've known Bob Fussell since he was 2 years old. I haven't seen the list of people in the LLC, but I've lived here for 70 years, so I assume I know them all. Like I said before, I don't want to see anybody pour money down an empty hole."

Taylor said he has fond memories of going to the Wiss as a boy with his parents.

"I remember it when it was in its quote unquote heyday," Taylor said, "and I know what it looks like now."

He said he has it on good authority that the third floor has been suffering from water damage for 30 years and that beams are soaked with water and won't hold a nail.

"I really believe the building is beyond repair," Taylor said.

He also said, "I don't really care what they build. That's not my concern. I don't want them to spend money needlessly."

Bonacquisti also believes getting the actual cost of demolition will help resolve the issue, but not necessarily in favor of the preservationists.

"Despite the folks coming forward now, I can list three times as many folks that agree with our decision," Bonacquisti said in an interview through Facebook messages.

His position hasn't changed, he said.

"I truly believe that corner is worth a lot more empty than having that old building there," Bonacquisti said. "The traffic flow at that four corners is very high and as I have stated in the past, that corner is screaming for some type of retail where we can generate property tax and add to the employment of folks in this area."

The Wiss with apartments on the second and third floor just isn't a good idea, Bonacquisti. There are already too many apartments in Le Roy, he said, plus he knows the building well (he and his wife once lived within 200 feet of the Wiss) and the odor from vehicles, the noise and high traffic volume makes it an unappealing place to live.

He regrets that the village didn't resolve the issue three years ago (which was before he was on the board).

"I also believe taking that building down can fix that corner once and for all," he said. "Have you ever been on Lake Street in the left-turn lane? Pull up to the stop line, only to have to throw the car in reverse as a truck or bus is coming from the east turning north?"

Tucci did not respond to The Batavian's request for an interview.

Keys said she is still confused by her colleagues' position and thinks the LLC proposal should appeal to conservative politicians.

"It's free enterprise," Keys said. "It's people in the community taking care of an issue. It's a group of people who believe in it so much that they've spent their own money to get this far. It just doesn't make sense economically to spend money unnecessarily, even it's as low as $148,000. We could spend that $148,000 on infrastructure."

History: The Wiss has stood in Le Roy for at least two centuries. The original structure was built by Richard Stoddard. Stoddard died in 1810, so the building had to have been erected prior to 1810, according to an article by Le Roy Historian Lynne Belluscio. The article appeared in the Oct. 3, 2005 edition of the Le Roy PennySaver. John Wiss purchased the building in 1869. The hotel was briefly known as the Michel House after George Michel of Wheatland purchased it in 1904. John Hepps purchased it in the 1920s and renamed it the Wiss Hotel, in honor of the previous owner. Don Pangrazio ran the establishment for 40 years before closing it down in 2005. The county acquired the property in 2010 in tax lien foreclosure and immediately deeded it to the village.

January 24, 2013 - 4:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Preservationists in Le Roy are making a last-ditch effort to save the Wiss Hotel building at the corner of Lake Street and Main Street, the gateway into the village.

Trustees gave Wiss Hotel supporters very little reason to believe during the course of Wednesday night's village hall meeting that they will accept this new offer.

"I'll reserve judgment until I read the proposal, but I have a mind right now that it needs to come down," Trustee Robert Taylor said.

Only Trustee Jennifer Keys is clearly a supporter of preservation and Trustee Jim Bonacquisti, who two weeks ago almost wavered on his opposition to saving the Wiss, came out strongly in favor of getting rid of the building.

Trustee Mike Tucci, who was adamant two weeks ago that the building come down, was absent.

Mayor Greg Rogers said this week, as he did two weeks ago, that accepting the offer is a sound business decision, but once again expressed a level of disagreement with the idea that the building should be saved.

Rogers said the board will discuss the offer in closed session at a time when all five members are present and vote on it publicly afterward.

Attorney Bob Fussell, who has been leading the citizen effort, told village trustees last night that the new offer addresses some of the apparent objections raised two weeks ago, when trustees failed to adopt a proposed counteroffer to the group.

The key points:

  • There is now officially a Le Roy LLC;
  • The group would pay $10,000 to the village at the close of escrow;
  • The time line for taking over the building and ensuring its safety is accelerated.

Even with these changes, a number of residents who attended last evening's meeting raised objections to the trustees selling the property to the LLC.

"We’re sitting here waiting for somebody to really get hurt, and the liability you’re going to incur is going to be a hell of a lot more then the cost of tearing it down," Jim Nielsen told the board.

Later in the meeting, Fussell countered Nielsen, noting that it won't be possible for the village to get the building demolished any faster than the LLC could take it over.

Resident Tom Spadaro offered $125,000 on the spot for the Wiss lot once the building is down and the hole is filled in. He said the lot is worth at least $250,000.

New estimates for tearing the building down range from $146,000 to more than $200,000, but it's unclear if that includes any liability for asbestos abatement or any possible contamination remediation.

Rogers said if the building is torn down, the village will actively seek a buyer for the lot at a market rate, even if takes a couple of years to find such a buyer.

"If we go through with taking it down, we're going to sell it and try to come out ahead," Rogers said.

Residents in opposition called the Wiss an eyesore, dangerous and a fire trap.

Eve Hens, who owns the adjoining building and has residential tenants, said she's constantly in fear of a fire at the Wiss.

"It scares the heck out of me that if there’s a fire in that building it could travel not only into our building, but all the way down Main Street," Heus said.

She called destruction of the Wiss an "urgent issue."

(CLARIFICATION: Possibly because of my misunderstanding, but Hens e-mailed to say that she isn't opposed to saving the Wiss, just that something must be done immediately because of the fire danger, whether it's demolition or restoration; it's an urgent issue.)

Fire Chief Tom Wood agreed it's an urgent issue, and stressed that something be done. But whether that means tearing it down or restoring it, isn't an issue the fire department takes a position on.

“There’s no possible way I can justify putting guys into this building during a fire situation," Wood said. "Absolutely not. Somebody would get hurt. I hate to say this, I would be lucky to save two building (if there was a fire). This building needs to be torn down or something needs to be done with it right away. We’re dragging our feet. Something has to be done either way you go."

Bonacquisti said he's done some research since the last meeting, and in reaction to those who called construction of the Walgreens in the village a mistake, he noted that the former buildings at that location generated only $4,3100 in sales tax revenue in their final year, whereas last fiscal year, Walgreens generated $9,400 in sales tax.

The store employs 23 people, including 16 Le Roy residents, he said.

People don't move to Le Roy, he said, just because of a beautiful village. They also like the fact that Le Roy is affordable, it is safe and it has good schools, and he considers Walgreens one of the village's businesses as well.

"I do a lot of my business here and I'll tell you, you won't find better customer service than Walgreens," Bonacquisti said. "I know profits go up the corporate chimney, that was a statement that was made, but that’s not a concern of mine. We’re making money here and people are working there."

For preservationists, destruction of the Wiss is more symbolic than a matter of saving a historic or elegant building, which nobody claims as descriptions of the Wiss.

"When demolition becomes the easy way out, we may be looking into a future that does not include a business district at all," wrote Lorie Longhany, who could not attend the meeting, in an e-mail to Fussell.  "A building here, another one over there and the historic nature of this community is gone forever."

Doug Hill said tearing down the Wiss could just unleash a domino effect that would eviscerate the business district.

“When you take that building down, then you’re talking about the building next to it and the building next to that," Hill said. "That’s where you are going to change this whole community. Not with tearing down the Wiss, but the fact that the Wiss property is not big enough probably to develop and you’re going to be going to the next building and the next building and tearing down.

"Pretty soon this is not going to look like a community that is attractive to live here. It’s not going to be historic any more. It’s going to look like off Mount Read Boulevard in Greece."

Candace Bower said her family goes back in Le Roy for 200 years and she for one thinks it's time for Le Roy to stop destroying its heritage.

“We need to stop wringing our hands and putting up more what ifs in the way," She said. "Just dream. This board can be the group that finally decided to look to the future of this village and see what it can be if we dare to dream.”

It's also just practical to save the Wiss, some preservationists argued.

Lisa Compton cited studies that show density equals greater economic benefit to a community.

Terry Keys, husband of Trustee Jennifer Keys, said that once the Wiss is gone, it can't be brought back and the LLC is the only group that has come forward with any kind of plan to do something productive with the building.

"The issue is are we willing to write a check and wait to see what happens or are we willing to take a check and watch what happens?" Terry Keys said.

Dennis Melander said he was initially opposed to saving the Wiss, but after reading Rick Hauser's report, he realized saving the Wiss isn't just a pipe dream, but a practical response to a real problem.

"I would object to any taxpayer money being used on demolition when you have a viable offer right here to take it off your hands and save the cost of the demolition," Melander said.

Fussell said that Hauser has estimated saving the Wiss will cost the LLC $400,000 and he already has verbal commitments for $200,000.

“There are people who are interested," Fussell said. "We may not be able to get it for a week, we may not be able to get it in a month, I don’t know. We may not be able to get it at all. But we’re already half way there.”

January 10, 2013 - 9:09am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

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.

December 7, 2012 - 11:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Press release:

A new offer to purchase the Wiss Hotel from the Village of Le Roy has been submitted to the village by Le Roy New York, LLC. The new offer eliminates the prior provision that the village loan the group money to purchase the property. The village board will provide the opportunity to residents to appear at the beginning of its meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 12, in the Le Roy Village Hall to comment on the proposal.

UPDATE: The backers of the project have established an e-mail address for people who would like information regarding the Wiss Hotel Project and the formation of the LeRoyNY LLC.  It is [email protected].

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