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City Planning Property Auction


By July, dozens of city-owned property will be placed on the auction block.

“I think the council should go ahead and get going with the public hearings,” said Andrea L. Smith, interim city planner.

At a committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday, council members reviewed surplus city-owned parcels and decided most of them should be sold at auction.

“This meeting is a result of a kind of request that we inventory what we own,” said Philip A. Cosmo, interim city manager. “We checked what items we consider surplus, and what items need to be kept.”

The majority of the city-owned property not being sold is used as city facilities and city parks, but some, like a few small parcels near the northern end of Lake Street, are being used as staging areas for municipal construction projects. Other small parcels are considered unbuildable and are already used by the public, like a small corner of green space at the western end of Proctor Avenue.

“We kind of intended that to be a passive park,” said Mr. Cosmo. “Our surplus lots run the gamut of land-locked lots that nobody but the neighbors would be interested to some with houses on them.”

Mr. Cosmo recommended all surplus property be put on a list for public auction, but qualified that recommendation.

“I think we need to look at a professional auctioneer to sell them,” he said. “We could use their expertise to publicize the sale.”

Council members asked for restrictions to be put on the sale of some properties, for example, Councilwoman Jennifer Stevenson requested that the lot at 216 Lake Street be sold with a stipulation it could not be subdivided.

There was also discussion that some property should be sold with a request for proposal to ensure that vacant lots were sold to individuals who would develop them.

“There’s a larger benefit to the community if you sell it to someone who is going to develop it rather than a speculator,” said Ms. Smith.

Ms. Smith recommended that some properties on small lots, like 214 and 216 Pero Lane and 808 and 814 Paterson St, be combined to create buildable lots.

Other small properties, like landlocked lots on Curtis Street, John Street and a narrow vacant lot at 917 Ford Street seemed unlikely to be developed.

“We have to be realistic about where people want to develop,” said Ms. Stevenson. “It never hurts to try to sell.”

The list contained properties that the city has already tried to auction, including the former St. Joseph’s Nursing Home at 420 Lafayette Street.

“We tried to sell it, and we’ll try again,” said Mr. Cosmo, who added that Ogdensburg’s request for a $200,000 grant from the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency for asbestos abatement at the site did not succeed.

Ms. Smith suggested the city try to sell the property again and in the meantime continue to search for asbestos removal funds.

“If you can’t sell it with asbestos abated, then I recommend you demolish it,” she said. “It cannot be a nursing home again because it does not meet New York State code.”

The council agreed to sell the building, but stipulated buyers develop or improve the property within an unspecified time limit.

The former Desperados property at 212 Ford Street will also be placed back on the auction block.

“It is a property where the roof leaks,” said Mr. Morley. “You might not get any interest in that building.”

Ms. Smith also told the council the property at 505 New York Avenue, slated for rehabilitation, could not be taken out of the city’s Neighborhood Stabilization program.

“The property cannot be removed from the NSP so we will need to make a decision,” she said. “The staff recommendation is to change the end use of the property from rehabilitation to demolition.”

The property was placed into the program by former city staff, but upon review needed more work to rehabilitate than the city wanted to spend.

“We looked into that and they said it would have taken more than $100,000 to rehabilitate it,” said Deputy Mayor Michael D. Morley. “It should have never been put into the program in the first place.”

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program was a federal and state grant to improve city housing stock. According to the program’s rules, if the city can demolish the house spending less than $25,000 of grant money, it can sell the land as it pleases. If more than that amount is spent, the program stipulates the property must be sold to a buyer that who earns under 120 percent of St. Lawrence County’s median income.

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