BY CHERYL SLAVIN
The Stony Point Town Board opened its public hearing last Tuesday night on the fate of the damaged houses which remain standing along the waterfront. The hearing is the latest step necessary as the Town proceeds with plans to demolish the unsafe structures if the property owners do not. Previously Town building inspector Bill Sheehan had determined that nine houses in the waterfront area have sustained 50 percent damage or more, requiring that they must be torn down and rebuilt according to the new FEMA regulations.
Notices of the hearing and demolition deadline of June 6 went out to the property owners after the Board’s April 22 meeting. However, locating the current addresses of the owners has proven difficult, as all have moved to other lodgings in the aftermath of the destruction and two of the houses are bank-owned. According to the town, at least half of the notices have been returned as undeliverable. Notices have also been posted on the damaged houses themselves.
One homeowner, Peter Allison of 41 Beach Road, did appear and speak against the town’s plans to tear down his house. He noted that he was in the process of obtaining approximately $221,000 from the NY Rising Housing Recovery Program (not to be confused with the Community Reconstruction Program), but that was still not enough money for him to purchase and install the modular home he would like. He disagreed, moreover, with Sheehan’s assessment that his house was unsafe and had sustained 68 percent damage, asserting that the entire top floor was untouched by the storm and still contains all his possessions.
“I don’t want the town to just show up with a back hoe on June 6 and tear the place down,” he declared. “NY Rising is about keeping people in their homes, but it seems like the town has other plans.”
Speaking for the board, Supervisor Geoff Finn expressed again that the town does not want to be in the business of taking down homes, but that at this point the damaged structures are dangerous public nuisances which must be removed.
He advised Allison to at least obtain a demolition permit to indicate his intention to remove the house, which would at least provide a few more months for Allison to secure the funds he needs. However, if Allison takes no further action, the town would be forced to remove the house itself.
The board decided to keep the hearing open until its next meeting on May 27.
In other business, the board also voted to hire the Turner Miller Group to assess the Letchworth Village property and recommend actions necessary to prepare it for commercial marketing. Councilman Tom Basile noted the contributions of his fellow board members Karl Javanes and Tom Monaghan, as well as former board member Jim McDonnell and volunteer Dave Ziegler for all their efforts towards getting the property ready for commercial use.
The intent is to increase the marketability of the property by making it move-in ready and thus more attractive to large commercial tenants. The town plans to make zoning on the property more suitable to potential tenants.
The board also voted to start the renovation process for Town Hall’s windows, roof, siding, and HVAC system by hiring John Perkins Architect to draw up the initial specs of the work to be done. The town hopes to pay for the upgrades through a combination of Community Block Grant and building fund money, at no cost to the taxpayers. Plans for the renovations might also include an eventual back building extension to accommodate the building department, which is currently housed in a separate structure.
During public input, Susan Filgueras directed the board’s attention to a discrepancy between two sets of maps both purporting to designate the route CHPE would take overland through Stony Point. The maps filed with the NY Public Service Commission show the route going straight through the Waldron Cemetery; the maps on a flashdrive provided by CHPE developer Donald Jessome to Supervisor Finn show the route bypassing the cemetery but heading straight through Beach Road and the Ba-Mar community. Neither route, in her opinion, is acceptable, but she urged the town to contact Jessome and demand to know which is the “official” map.
Resident Ron Lent expressed concern to the board that there are no guards at the town waterfront parks, a situation which has led to non-resident use. He himself had to tell non-residents on at least one occasion to leave. The board responded that there will be guards on weekends after Memorial Day as well as during weekday parties but that the budget cannot support more right now.
The town will also be installing surveillance cameras in order to monitor the situation as best it can. Councilman Jim Monaghan noted that on several occasions the gates have been left open at night, a situation that must be addressed. He also agreed that Lent’s suggestion to recruit volunteer guards is worth exploring.