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Former Griff’s store in Watertown will be demolished today

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With Jefferson County preparing to pave a new access road into its corporate park, developer P.J. Simao said he will demolish a disputed building near the road’s entrance today.

“I didn’t want it to be a hazard for the motorists coming in and out of the industrial park entrance,” Mr. Simao said.

The county and one of Mr. Simao’s real estate companies, Onondaga Development LLC, have been in litigation since 2010 over the property, which is needed to align the corporate park’s Fisher Road entrance with the Salmon Run Mall Road on the opposite side of Route 12F.

The parties have a June 29, 2007, contract that stipulated the county pay a $200,000 deposit to Mr. Simao to demolish the former Griff’s store and the former SMX Transport Inc. building, remove three underground petroleum bulk storage tanks and remediate any soil contamination discovered. At closing, the county would pay the remaining purchase price of $445,000 and transfer title to three other parcels to Onondaga Development.

The county paid the $200,000, but Mr. Simao did not demolish the former Griff’s or clean up the parcel, and the county never transferred title to the properties. The county filed a breach-of-contract against Mr. Simao in January 2011, and he countersued, claiming that he had substantially performed everything required of him under the contract and that it is the county that breached the contract by not conveying the properties to him.

Mr. Simao said in addition to giving motorists an unobstructed view entering or leaving the park, tearing down Griff’s takes away one of the county’s allegations that he did not live up to the contract.

“It’s such a minor part of the litigation and the county is trying to make such a big deal out of it to try to mask what it’s done, I think it’s prudent to just take it off the table,” Mr. Simao said.

County Attorney David J. Paulsen said while he is pleased the building is coming down, it will not have much impact on the litigation.

“It potentially reduces any damages we might have,” he said.

Mr. Paulsen said there is still a question regarding contaminated soil on the Griff’s site as well as other outstanding legal issues. Mr. Simao contends the 2007 agreement was tied to negotiations that also included construction of County Route 202, for which Mr. Simao donated land, and a connector road from Salmon Run Mall to Sam’s Club, near where Mr. Simao owns property. The county has denied there was ever any link between the projects and there is nothing in the contracts connecting the two. Mr. Paulsen declined to comment on the issue.

Mr. Simao also has claimed the road’s construction has left adjacent properties he owns virtually undevelopable, and that access to Route 12F he claims he was promised by the county never materialized. He said diagrams of the proposed realignment provided by the county showed the access, but the state Department of Transportation later nixed it. Mr. Paulsen said the county never made any promises about the parcel having direct access to the state route.

Mr. Paulsen said paving on the road, which will be known as County Route 196, will start next week, with the road being put into use in about six weeks.

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