T he village will pursue legal action against the owner of a dilapidated Main Street building.
Mayor Peter Telisky said Tuesday the village is working with Washington County to take Flint Stone, owner of the old “Chase” building to court.
“It’s crazy. It’s absolutely absurd that this has gone on as long as it has,” Telisky said.
The property, which is located adjacent to Lock 12 on the Champlain Canal, has been cordoned off with police tape for the last seven to eight months because it was deemed unsafe and officials feared falling bricks might strike pedestrians.
The owner had begun the process of tearing the building down—the front façade is all the remains of the building—but progress has stalled since this summer and a cease and desist order was issued late last year.
According to Washington County property records, Stone purchased the building for $1 from Charles Friedman in June of last year.
Officials are hopeful that by filing legal action against Stone they will compel him to remove the remainder of the structure. He would be subject to fines for every day the building isn’t in compliance.
“If that doesn’t produce results the village would take a look at its unsafe building ordinance and push in the rest of it ourselves,” Telisky said.
If it gets to that point, Telisky said the village would look to recoup the cost of tearing the building down from its owner.
The village and the county are also exploring a course of action against John Tracy Adams who owns the “flat iron” building on Main Street.
“We’re going to look at the cost of having him served,” said Telisky.
The village and the county have repeatedly tried to contact Adams, who lives out of state, but he has so far rejected all correspondence.
The three-story, 6,210-square-foot building is located on an 80-foot by 190-foot lot at the southern end of the Amtrak parking lot, across the street from the Whitehall Volunteer Firehouse, and is deteriorating quickly because of neglect.
Although officials haven’t inspected the interior of the building, Telisky said a visual inspection of the exterior revealed that the roof has been breached and is allowing water to penetrate the interior of the structure and the exterior wall that faces the Amtrak Parking lot has buckled. Although officials don’t believe the building is in danger of imminent collapse, the wall compromises the building’s structural integrity.
Like the “Chase” building, officials had police tape and cement barricades placed around the exterior of the building last spring to keep people away.
This is not the first time the village has had problems with a property owned by Adams. In the 1990s the village had to use eminent domain to seize a property belonging to Adams on Williams Street, adjacent to the entrance to the Whitehall Recreation Center. That building was deemed a hazard to public safety and was torn down.
If Adams continues to ignore correspondence from the village and the county, officials will consider the possibility of taking the building down and would seek to recoup those costs in court.
Problem properties are not unique to Whitehall.
Erika Sellar Ryan, the village’s attorney, said it’s an issue faced by every community in Washington County.
She said traditionally, municipalities will order a property owner to comply with local ordinances and when that doesn’t work they can seek permission from the courts to do what is necessary to stabilize a property. Unfortunately, the cost of stabilizing or demolishing a building can be expensive and it isn’t always easy to recoup those costs.
“You try and do whatever is most likely to recover the money,” she said.
Telisky is hopeful that problems with both properties will be resolved later this year.
“By spring we hope to have one down and will be processing the other,” he said.