Residents tired of eyesore ravaged by fire, board promises action

GREENWOOD — After years of promises, a dilapidated structure in the heart of Greenwood may yet be coming down.

During a meeting of the town board Thursday night, prompted by neighbors, officials took the next steps in exploring the demolition of a structure at 1600 State Route 248.

A fire devastated the property roughly two years ago, and since, no action has been taken to renovate or protect the property from further deterioration by the elements, according to neighboring property owner Joe Ryan, who spoke at length about the situation during the meeting. Ryan traveled from Long Island to have his voice heard. 

“I’ve heard this for more than a year, kicking the can down the road,” he said. “It’s not enough. This requires action by the board ... this has a denigrating impact on the community.”

As a result, Ryan said he has been unable to rent or sell his property.

The structure has presented additional hazards, with neighbors reporting children using the abandoned structure as a place to play.

Yet another set of neighbors complained of increased rodent activity as a result.

"It's frustrating to do everything you can in your own house to prevent rodents, but across the street you have this thing attracting them," said a concerned resident.

Town attorney Jim Burd, however, expressed confidence in having the structure removed in the next one to two months, as conversations with Steuben County for the town's highway department to proceed with work continue. While the parties have been in contact, an answer has been elusive — a displeasing notion to Ryan. 

“It will be 2020 and that building will still be there, and the building will eventually drag itself down like an anchor,” he said.

Ryan requested that the town put out a Request for Proposal (RFP), and set a course for funding of the demolition.

“Is there a way we can keep things from falling through the cracks?” Supervisor Brennan Thurber asked Burd.

The building's owner will be held liable through the cost through local ordinance and a court judgement that can be placed against the property's tax assessment and possibly recouped at a later date.

“As a practical matter, it’s nice to have a judgement, but that doesn’t mean that we will ever collect,” Burd cautioned.

To date, the property owner has issued no response to inquiries by the board or town attorney.

Ryan further argued that the owners who sold the property in June of 2016, for $1 following the fire, should also be held to account for the current condition of the building as well.

"It was foolish for the Town to believe that someone could return the house to its original condition," he said. “Anyone who believes that should be in an insane asylum."

If the county cannot grant the town permission to tear down the house, a Request for Proposal (RFP) will be put out for demolition and asbestos remediation. The board set a date of Aug. 23 to begin RFP process if it becomes necessary — a remedy that was met with agreement by all in attendance.