Supervisor's Column - June 15, 2022 What is being done at 600 Ridge Road?
The title of this article, "What is being done at 600 Ridge Road?” is a question I have gotten at least 2-3 times a week from Webster citizens via phone call, e-mail etc. since I became Town Supervisor 2 and 1/2 years ago. Unfortunately, the "tone" of the question is usually one of anger or frustration foundational in a belief the Town of Webster is doing NOTHING. That "feeling" that the town is doing nothing is not all together accurate. However, the reality that the property at 600 Ridge Road (The old Webster Furniture Strippers) has sat there "empty and rotting" for the past 15+ years warrants citizens being upset. We should ALL be upset at the current situation there. 600 Ridge Road is at the epicenter of the Hamlet known as West Webster. It is the lynchpin to development 100+ yards in each direction on Gravel and Ridge. As long as it continues to be vacant and rotting, the whole neighborhood suffers. So, has the town really just been sitting around doing nothing on this property? I'd like to think not, but I'll let you decide based on the following timeline of milestone events the past 2 years in the effort to remedy this building.
1st.... My Supervisor's Corner article on September 16, 2020 addressed the "strange" fact pattern on this property over the past 15+ years. Please feel free to go to the Town Website to re-read that article as it gives elaboration to the MAIN stumbling block from this property's remediation.... that being "Unknown Environmental issues". 2nd.. in the January - March 2021 timeframe the town worked with Lozier engineering to figure out the cost to do a phase 2 environmental test on the property. In layman terms, such testing would remove the "unknown" from whether there actually are environmental issues on the site, and if there are how severe. This process culminated with a Town Board workshop presentation and discussion that manifested the 2 following hurdles to the town paying for the Phase 2 testing; 1. The $12,000 cost would be paid by taxpayers on a privately owned property, and 2. if the results of the testing showed millions of dollars of cleanup needed.... the town taxpayers may be in the liability position of that cost due to the town taking lead on the Phase 2 testing. 3rd...in August- October 2021 I visited 300 residences that are within 1/2 mile of the property answer questions on what the town is trying to do on it. 4th.... in March 2022, Monroe County and the Town of Webster entered into discussions on a "joint effort" to be able to do the phase 2 testing on the property, and have any remediation manifested from that testing NOT be directly liable to the County or Town.
On Thursday June 23rd, the Town Board Workshop will have a presentation done by Town Attorney Charlie Genese about specifics of this "County-Town" partnership on this venture to get the phase 2 testing done, and the risk, if any the Town would have of remediation cost of any environmental issues found. Please feel free to attend that meeting, or watch live on the town website. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Press Release: July 15, 2021
Town of Webster Secures Funding for the Revitalization of the West Webster Hamlet
The Town of Webster, NY has been awarded $90,000 in transportation planning funds towards the development of a revitalization strategy for portions of the community centered on the Hamlet of West Webster. Secured by the Webster Economic Development Alliance on behalf of the Town, financial assistance for the Study is being provided by the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration through the Genesee Transportation Council.
For several decades, the Town of Webster has experienced record population growth, followed by extensive commercial development along the Ridge Road/Empire Boulevard Corridor. Unfortunately, this wave of investment and activity has failed to reach the West Webster Hamlet. The Study will build public consensus on future development patterns within the Hamlet, and will also seek transportation, land use and development recommendations for areas along the Ridge/Empire Corridor and the intersection of Ridge Road and Bay Road.
In addition to a focus on economic development and hamlet revitalization, the Study will also identify potential enhancements to pedestrian/bicycle access, safety, and connectivity of adjacent neighborhoods, shopping destinations, and adjacent recreational resources. The Town Board is committed to the safety and prosperity of residents within Webster, and this Study will provide the blueprint and guidance required to progress these endeavors in West Webster.
“The West Webster Hamlet has a rich history. Anchored by the corner of Gravel and Ridge, the Hamlet has had its challenges over the last several years. This grant is a huge step forward in redeveloping the area as a destination again in the Webster Community” ~ Tom Flaherty, Supervisor, Town of Webster
The project is made possible through a partnership between the Town of Webster and the Webster Economic Development Alliance (Alliance). As the community’s economic development organization, Alliance staff coordinated the development of the project and the formulation of the grant application in conjunction with Town leaders.
The Study is anticipated to begin in Fall 2021. More information will follow in the coming weeks regarding citizen participation opportunities during the planning process.
Supervisor’s Column for September 16, 2020: The facts on Webster Furniture Strippers - 600 Ridge Road
As a resident of Webster for the past 23 years I had been surprised to see how the corner of Gravel and Ridge had not been developed, and frankly has eroded over the years. When I was campaigning in 2019 for Town Supervisor, several citizens voiced to me their concerns about this corner. I also read in the 2008 Town Comprehensive plan that there were big plans for the development of this corner.
So why has that corner fallen into disrepair over the past 15-20 years? When I entered office in January 2020 it was one of the first issues I sought to tackle. From my research, the answer lies in the strange story of 600 Ridge Road, which previously housed the business Webster Furniture Strippers. I say it is a "strange story" because it something that could not and would not happen at our homes or in private business. It is a story that shows how the government can at times not be smart on getting resolutions on issues.
600 Ridge Road's owners ceased paying their town, county, and school real estate taxes about 15 years ago. The law requires the County of Monroe to reimburse the Town of Webster and the Webster School District for those unpaid taxes. After three years of not paying taxes, the building goes to a Monroe County tax foreclosure auction. At that auction, the County is asking for a "minimum bid" of the unpaid taxes. If no 3rd party makes that minimum bid, the County takes title/ownership to the property and can market it for sale in any way they deem proper and at any price.
Here's where the story gets "strange". Within this process, the County does a basic review of the property before they take title to see if there are any potential environmental issues. That "basic review" is foundational in looking at what the most recent use of the building was. The County saw that the building was used for furniture stripping with various chemicals used and determined they did NOT want to take title to it. In such, the property stays in the ownership/title of the current owner who has essentially abandoned the property by demonstrating they have not paid the taxes on it the past three years. Then, for the next 10-12 years, the town, county and school district send tax bills to the owner, and the owner continues to NOT pay them, and the county reimburses the town and school for their unpaid taxes.
Simply said.... the situation will go on like this into perpetuity or until the building falls down and someone or some municipality is forced to do something to get to "final resolution". This goes into the category of "you can't make this stuff up!!". So how does this situation get remedied and NOT have the can kicked down the road for 10+ more years? I have been working with the Webster Town Attorney, the DEC, and the real estate division at Monroe County to resolve this. The first part of the plan is to get the DEC reports on the building in the last 30 years and if they show that the environmental issues at the site are "minimal or non-existent", the County may take title to the property and market it for sale. At that point, a developer most likely would want to buy it if they saw the cost to take down the building was NOT going to have hundreds of thousands of dollars of environmental remediation. If the DEC reports are not definitive enough to have Monroe County take title, we will move on to plan B which most likely entails a phase 1 or 2 environmental study of the property to determine the true environmental risk and what needs remediation.
Bottom line.... I am not comfortable just throwing my hands up and saying "oh well... nothing we can do. It's Monroe County's decision". Fact is, the property is IN Webster. It is an eyesore at best, and a safety risk at worst. It also is impeding the development of that corner and all neighborhoods that spawn off of it. I am emboldened in the effort to get this situation resolved. Stay tuned for more details on this as they arise. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com