In Ancram, beautification starts with Town Board

ANCRAM—The Town Board spends a lot of time talking about what should be done about all the dilapidated buildings around town.

But, guess what? The town itself owns one of these falling-down properties and so far, has not succeeded in dealing with it.

The July 19 Town Board meeting again took up the continuing conundrum of “unsafe buildings.”

Councilman David Boice told the board he spoke with Joseph Hoyt about the status Porters Store. Mr. Hoyt and his wife, Donna, own the ramshackle structure situated adjacent to their Ancram Hotel, a bar and grill on Route 82 east of the Route 82/County Route 7 intersection in the Ancram hamlet.

Mr. Hoyt indicated they are still looking into their options and may put a new roof on the building along with some pieces of plywood with pictures on them, according to Mr. Boice.

Another decrepit structure, the Stiehle House, just west and across the road from Porters Store, owned by the Ancram Preservation Society (APG) has boarded-up windows with children’s silhouettes painted on them.

Mr. Boice pointed out that because of its proximity to road, the Stiehle House is more of a public safety hazard than Porters.

If the town were to step in and take down Porters “it would cost us a lot of money.” The town should ask itself why it would it take Porters down: Is it because it is a hazard or because of what it looks like, Mr. Boice said.

Addressing “the whole phenomenon of unsafe buildings,” Town Supervisor Art Bassin said under state code, the code enforcement officer (CEO) has to decide that a building should be demolished. The Town Board reviews the recommendation of the CEO, conducts a public hearing on it, then decides. “It’s the Town Board’s decision under either [town or state] code,” he said.

At what point does it make sense for the town to act? The building has to be a threat to public safety. Just because it’s ugly and rundown doesn’t mean it’s a threat to public safety. The same thing is true about Tinsmith and Stiehle,” said the supervisor. He agreed that Stiehle is “the bigger risk,” but wondered if any of these buildings “damage the welfare of the community because it looks so bad?”

Councilwoman Bonnie Hundt asked how long the town has to wait before these buildings do become a threat and noted that they bring down area property values.

Mr. Bassin said he understands that the APG has determined there is no way to install a septic system at the Stiehle House, which makes it “unlivable,” but that the group will “make it more cosmetic.”

Mr. Bassin pointed out it’s not that easy to take down a building that has asbestos shingles. Mr. Boice noted, “It’s not a health hazard until you start working on it.”

The discussion continued with the supervisor noting there have been some revitalization success stories in the hamlet, such as Simons General Store, which is now an artist’s residence and studio, and the Porteous and Rollins houses west of the intersection on Route 82. The recently purchased Tinsmith house is now undergoing renovation.

Amidst the conversation about hiring an engineer to declare a place unsafe and the need for some evidence such as wind debris to indicate a public hazard, Councilman Boice said, before the town considers taking someone else’s building down, “we should get our own building down first.”

The building he was talking about is the Houghtaling house on Town Road adjacent to the Ancram Highway Garage in Ancramdale.

The town purchased the building and small surrounding property, which also had a mobile home on it, a couple of years ago. The county was going to auction it off for non-payment of taxes, but before that happened, the town bought it for between $2,500 and $3,500, Town Highway Superintendent James Miller said by phone this week. The idea was to remove the trailer and tear down the house to provide added space for materials and equipment and put in some trees for screening at the Town Highway Department.

Mr. Miller said the small two-story house was gutted by fire back in the 1970s and because it was no longer habitable, the owner put in a mobile home there.

But because the house has asbestos siding, the town found out it was going to be quite expensive, not-to-mention “a bureaucratic minefield” to tear the place down.

Mr. Miller said he eventually got several quotes from contractors to do the work and the town settled on one between $20,000 and $30,000.

Mr. Miller said the demolition was “all set up” when the contractor “fell off the face of the earth” and nothing was ever done.

Now the town, in an effort to get its “own house in order,” as Councilman Hugh Clark put it, has placed a new advertisement requesting proposals “for the total demolition and removal of a fire-wrecked house, located at 2 Town Rd, Ancramdale, NY 12503, using asbestos in place controlled demolition methods, house will be demolished and foundations taken down 2 feet below grade. No backfill or seeding. Debris will be removed from site and will be hauled to a legally permitted facility.”

Any interested contractor has to show that they are insured and have the equipment and labor necessary to complete the job.

They can inspect the house to be demolished by contacting Highway Superintendent Miller at 518-329-6190. Sealed bids should be mailed to Mr. Miller, Town of Ancram, 1416 County Route 7, Ancram 12502 by August 10 and will be opened and reviewed at the August 16 Ancram Town Board meeting.

The next Town Board meeting is August 16, 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

To contact Diane Valden email

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