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Massena proposes purchase of downtown parking lot

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MASSENA - Village officials have proposed purchasing the privately owned parking lot behind storefronts on Main and Andrews Streets for $1.

But at least two downtown business owners who own a portion of the lot said they would not be interested in that offer.

The village had been maintaining the privately owned lot since 1967, and the public has been able to use it for that period. Earlier this year, the village informed the owners of Clopman’s Furniture, the World Class Gym & Fitness Center, Auggie’s Speedway Inn and the vacant Massena School of Business Building it would stop maintaining the lot and free itself of that liability.

The village is set to stop maintaining the lot as of March 31. As of right now, there is no clear picture of the lot’s future. At least two of the owners have expressed interest in restricting public access to it.

On Tuesday night, Mayor James F. Hidy and Trustees Timothy J. Ahlfeld and Patricia K. ‘Trish” Wilson agreed to issue a letter to the owners asking if the village could purchase it. Buying the lot could eliminate the confusion over who is responsible for it, Ms. Wilson said.

“That would be a great resolution because none of those issues would exist anymore,” Ms. Wilson said. “We would have liability, but it would be because we own the property ... This would be so much cleaner if it was truly a municipal parking lot.”

“It’s definitely complicated by the fact that there are multiple owners that have a stake in that parking lot,” she added.

Mr. Hidy agreed.

“It’s a simple turnaround,” Mr. Hidy said. ‘If you sell it to us for a dollar, we’ll take it and we’ll maintain it ... That’s the only option I see. I’m in agreement that it is a necessary parking lot.”

Auggie’s owner Tim Alguire and World Class Gym & Fitness Center owner Vincent E. Vari, in attendance at Tuesday’s board meeting, expressed hesitation at the village’s offer. Mr. Alguire said he would prefer the village continue to lease the lot. He recently put his business up for sale, and expressed frustration at the state of downtown.

“The whole block is for sale,” Mr. Alguire said. “I don’t understand why you people can’t work with us and have an agreement on leasing the property.”

The village should have made a final decision Tuesday night, Mr. Alguire said.

“Now you’re saying you’re going to send out letters and get your feelers out there to see what people think,” he said. “We’re here. Let’s talk now. It’s all of us here. We don’t need to get a letter ... S—t or get off the pot.”

Mr. Vari said his property is mortgaged and selling a piece of it was impractical.

“It’s a mortgage and you can’t split it up,” Mr. Vari said. “You’re better off not sending me a letter, because you already know what my opinion on that is.”

“You don’t want to take care of it, don’t take care of it, we’ll just have to figure out what we’re going to do,” he added.

Trustees Francis J. Carvel and Albert C. “Herb” Deshaies want the village to continue maintaining the privately owned lot without changes. Mr. Deshaies said the potential closure of the lot could affect business deliveries.

“You’re talking about unloading on the main drag, for crying out loud,” Mr. Deshaies said. “It’s a pain in the butt.”

Mr. Carvel pointed out the village maintains the Massena Arena parking lot which is privately owned by the Harte Haven Shopping Center. Mr. Hidy called that a “totally different issue,” a claim Mr. Carvel refuted.

“Spin it any way you want to spin it. It’s privately owned property,” Mr. Carvel said. “You seem to be able to work on privately owned property when it’s in your best interests or it’s something you want to do. But if you don’t want to do it, all of the sudden it’s illegal to do it.”

The village may go back to the drawing board if the owners are unwilling to sell, Mr. Hidy said.

“We’ll have to sit down and talk to legal counsel about it and come up with a solution,” he said.

Even if the maintenance agreement expires at the end of the month, the village could still devise a solution after that, Ms. Wilson said.

“That doesn’t mean a future lease can’t be negotiated or some arrangement can’t be negotiated,” she said. “I think we’re all working towards resolution.”

“There are threats made by some of the property owners. That’s unfortunate. It shouldn’t be degrading to that point,”she said. “We want to make the right decision. We’re just not there yet.”

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