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Massena village board allows owner chance to rebuild structure


MASSENA - The village’s Board of Trustees has given the owner of a derelict property at 68 Water St. another opportunity to rehab his building before making a decision on whether to demolish it.

During a public hearing on the proposed demolition of the structure, the owner, James Venier, convinced the board to give him the opportunity to propose a plan to repair the building’s numerous deficiencies in the village’s building code. Mr. Venier believes the building can be repairedand said he hadn’t the time or funds to repair it previously.

“I think the building is salvageable, and I’m going to fix it,” Mr. Venier said. “I hope it’s not too late, and next week I’m going to bring in an engineer to look at it. Prior to this (time) I have not had the resources to address” the building’s code deficiencies.

The building was damaged in a 2008 fire and has not been repaired since. The building breaks five of 12 criteria in the Massena building code that outline when a structure may become dangerous or unsafe to the general public.

These include damage to 33 percent or more of its supporting foundation; fire damage severe enough to pose a threat to the safety, health and general welfare of the public; a failure to provide amenities essential to healthy human habitation; and having parts so detached from the structure they may fail and injure members of the public, village officials said.

“All the structural deficiencies could be resolved with current and proper repairs. However, without a firm time-table, investment and commitment from the owner, said structure will be condemned and demolished,” Code Enforcement Officer Gregory Fregoe told the village board.

Mr. Fregoe pointed out most of the upper floor had been destroyed by the fire, and much of the wood has sustained significant water damage.

Trustee Albert C. “Herb” Deshaies noted Mr. Venier had ample time to address the code deficiencies before the public hearing on its demolition. “It’s been three years now; this is a long way over-done. If you’re waiting for something to happen, it’s got to be done tonight,” Mr. Deshaies told Mr. Venier.

Trustees pressed Mr. Venier for a timetable for when the building’s repairs will be completed and when he could present a plan to the board of its rehabilitation.

Mr. Venier expects the full rehabilitation to be completed within a year and said he might be able to present a plan to the board sometime next week.

Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld noted that the building code allows Mr. Venier 30 days to begin work rehabilitating the structure within 30 days and 60 days to have that work completed.

However, Mr. Venier estimated that working around weather conditions, it might take about six months to get the building up to village code.

Mayor James F. Hidy noted they could extend that deadline to give Mr. Venier enough time to complete the rehabilitation, while keeping it near enough to give him an added incentive to fix the property.

“Perhaps we could draw something up that gives (Mr. Venier) realistic time” to rehabilitate the structure, Mr. Hidy said. “I think waterfront properties in downtown Massena are very important.”

Mr. Venier pledged to construct four quality apartments units in that building and expressed his belief that Massena is in need of more quality apartments.

“I don’t think this town has a lot of good rental properties. I think most of the rental properties are not great,” Mr. Venier said. “And when I put something together it’s a nice piece of property.”

Trustee Patricia K. “Trish” Wilson proposed a motion to schedule a subsequent meeting to vote on Mr. Venier’s proposal and timetable for rehabilitating the building.

“Most of us are probably leaning toward the option to rebuild the property, but we don’t want to do that without (Mr. Venier’s) feet to the fire, something to prevent the village from going on this path” of not addressing derelict properties, Ms. Wilson said.

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