Is this worth saving?

Owner of old, dilapidated Ancram building wants it gone

ANCRAM—Can a historic building ever be too old to fix?

According to Ancram resident and business owner Donna Hoyt the answer is Yes.

Mrs. Hoyt told the Town Board at its February 20 meeting that after she spoke at the January 26 Heritage Resources Committee gathering she received an email from someone who called her comments “bitter, pointless and hypocritical.”

Mrs. Hoyt would not identify the writer of the email, which she read aloud at the Town Board meeting, but she took the opportunity to publicly respond to it.

Mrs. Hoyt and her husband, Joe, own the Ancram Hotel, a bar, with Mrs. Hoyt’s beauty salon upstairs. The establishment is on Route 82 just east of the Ancram hamlet center and across the road from the Ancram Paper Mill. The Hoyts also own the adjoining property to the west, the site of Porter’s Store, a three-story structure built in 1858. The store has been in a tumbledown condition for many years.

Mrs. Hoyt pointed out that she and her husband pay taxes on the store. But since the APG, a private non-profit, tax exempt corporation, purchased and renovated the Simons General Store, a historic structure built in 1873 and now on the National Register of Historic Places, that property has been off the tax rolls. She also noted that now since the group has purchased the Stiehle house, that too will be removed from the tax rolls, leaving other town taxpayers to “pick up the burden.”

The APG considers the Stiehle house, which stands at the east end of the hamlet crossroads of state Route 82 and county Route 7, adjacent to the firehouse, to be one of the oldest homes in town and one of three historically significant buildings in the hamlet center: the Simons store, the Stiehle house and the Tinsmith house. After a four-plus-year-long legal battle with the Ancram Fire District, the APG recently won the right to purchase the Stiehle house, which is also dilapidated, for $15,000 from the owner.

Mrs. Hoyt said she hates looking at the Porter’s store building, but that she cannot afford to take it down.

She criticized the APG for claiming it wants to preserve Ancram, but showing it by “suing our fire company.”

She also voiced opposition to efforts to pursue a municipal septic system for the hamlet, noting such a system would impose a $250/month fee on her. She said her water is tested regularly and there has been “no problem for 23 years.”

The issue came up in November 2012 when a buyer showed some interest in purchasing the Simons store if a leach field arrangement could be agreed upon with the town. The store, which the APG has been trying to sell for years, does not have adequate property to support a septic system and a local sanitation expert proposed a leach field under the town’s Blass Memorial Field to serve the store. Since then that idea seems to have been put on hold in favor of seeking grant money to pay for “engineering support to evaluate long-term solutions.” Another hamlet property owner installed a free-standing system that requires regular pumping out.

“My point is there comes a time when these buildings become obsolete,” said Mrs. Hoyt, noting Porter’s store will not function again. She said she purchased the property with the intention of tearing down the store to allow for additional parking for the hotel and because she could use the well.

Based on septic concerns and a lack of parking, the hamlet cannot become a commercial area, she said, noting it would be more visually appealing to take down the deteriorated buildings instead of “beating a dead horse” which is “what the Simons store has been.”

Supervisor Art Bassin said that if Porter’s store is obsolete perhaps the town should look into finding a way to take it down.

Later, when the discussion shifted to the board’s 2014 priorities, Mrs. Hoyt proposed that the town buy the Tinsmith house and tear it down. Mr. Bassin agreed that some buildings in the hamlet do not compare to the now “spiffed up” firehouse.

“Can’t we just let the fire company burn them down?” asked Councilman Chris Thomas, referring to the Tinsmith house and Porter’s store.

“You mean as a training exercise,” Mr. Bassin interjected.

“I already asked,” said Mrs. Hoyt. “They can’t do it for insurance reasons.”

In other business the board:

Heard Councilman Hugh Clark ask about the status of panic buttons purchased along with a court surveillance system in 2012. Town Clerk Monica Cleveland said she was told by Town Justice Bob Wilcox, who has the buttons, that she and the other clerks would need instruction in their use. Mr. Clark said the buttons should be in use and Mr. Bassin said he would look into the matter

Heard from Supervisor Bassin that the state Department of Environmental Conservation will study all the town’s culverts. The idea is to identify culverts that might be compromised in a “weather event” so the town can plan to do something about it “to accommodate more severe weather”

Heard from Highway Superintendent Jim MacArthur that his department is “broke” when it comes to this year’s snow removal budget, but that he’ll “work around it.” The highway boss also advised anyone who lives on a dirt road to get fuel or other deliveries involving large trucks now before mud season hits. And he asked Councilman/Zoning Revision Committee Chair Clark to let him know when he and his scenic ridgeline investigation committee would be traveling the roads next so they could take some pothole patch material along with them.

To contact Diane Valden email .


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