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20200852 Simpson Request for Demolition- 69Phila St SSPF Letter Preservation Foundation March 24,2021 Ms.Tamie Ehinger, Chair City of Saratoga Springs F 0 R City Hall PRESERVATION 474 Broadway Saratoga Springs,NY 12866 + RE: 65 and 69 Phila Street �'. Dear Ms. Ehinger, The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation has reviewed the applicant's materials that have been submitted to-date. The inability for the applicant to provide the additional materials as requested by the Design Review Commission demonstrates their unwillingness to provide the necessary information in a timely matter. Board of Directors Adam N.Favro The owners of these two buildings intentionally neglect 65 and 69 Phila Street in hopes to President redevelop the site for their financial gain at the expense of not only their neighbors,but the entire community. James Gold Vice President The current owners purchased 69 Phila Street in 1995 for $41,000 and 65 Phila Street in Linda Harvey-Opiteck 2002 for $125,000. Since that time they have been cited periodically by the City of Secretary Saratoga Springs for numerous violations and forced by City Court to demolish portions Dmitriy Yermolayev of the buildings because of unsafe conditions. Since acquiring the properties, no Treasurer improvements or meaningful maintenance has been performed. Other than paying nominal Jaime Butler taxes because of the assessed value of$167,400 for 65 Phila Street and $138,300 for 69 Caroline Cardone Phila Street and required Vacant Building Registrations fees no other discernable funds Giovanna D'Orazio have been expended on these two properties. It is apparent the owners seek to have the Steven Dodds 1� p p pA Julia Dunn properties demolished in order to increase the profit on the sale of the property as vacant Sandra Fox land or to redevelop it themselves. John Haller Liz Israel Douglas Kerr In addition to building codes governing New York State, Saratoga Springs has adopted Richard King regulations that require historic buildings be maintained and preserved. Indeed, "historic-- Stephen Kyne Vincent LaTerra structures hold a particular place in zoning and are treated differently on many levels,from William McCarthy taxing to use and, most importantly, for preservation. These structures have been Dorothy Rogers-Bunn designated as important to our community.The role ofpreservation is not important simply Cindy Spence g pp p y Jason Thomas for the current generation,but is also designed to keep and maintain the structures for many Matthew Veitch generations to come. James Kettlewell Time and time again these owners have sought to delay any responsibility for maintaining emeritus and preserving these two structures that are contributing buildings to the East Side Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places in hopes of being allowed to Executive Director demolish the structures solely for increased economic gain. Samantha Bosshart Membership& In August of 2020 the owners were asked by City Court to either repair the buildings or Programs Director seek permission to demolish the structures. The owners waited until November 2, 2020 Nicole Babie for 65 Phila Street and until November 6,2020 to submit applications to the Design Review Commission. Allowing time for the applications to be reviewed prior to being placed on the Design Review Commission agenda, the soonest the applications could be reviewed was December 9, 2020. The approval of demolitions in a local historic district requires a two-step process. First, determine if the buildings have architectural or historical 12 s p i i n i' S r r L r S"i r` '"' significance. Second, determine if the applicants meet the criteria set forth in City of Sar:rnga Springs. NY 12S( P i I Pi-5M7-iii3n Saratoga Springs Historic Review Ordinance. Since that time the applicants have requested to be adjourned twice. At the December 9th meeting, the Design Review Commission determined that both buildings have Architectural and Historical Significance. Following that determination, the proposed demolition is a Type I action under the New York State Environmental Quality Review and an environmental impact statement is required. To-date, an environmental impact statement has yet to be provided. The applications provided to the Design Review Commission are incomplete and fail to meet ALL of the requirements of Demolition for Architectural or Historical Significance: 1. The applicant shall document "good faith" efforts in seeking an alternative that will result in the preservation of the structure including consultation with the Commission and the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation.The relocation of structures may be permitted as an alternative to demolition; 2. The applicant shall document efforts to find a purchaser interested in acquiring and preserving the structure; 3. The applicant shall demonstrate that the structure cannot be adapted for any other permitted use,whether by the current owner or by a purchaser,which would result in a reasonable return; and 4. The applicant shall submit evidence that the property is not capable of earning a reasonable return regardless of whether that return represents the most profitable return possible. "Dollars and cents proof` shall be required to demonstrate such hardship. 5. Application for demolition of a structure with historic or architectural significance shall include acceptable post-demolition plans for the site. Such plans shall include an acceptable timetable and guarantees which may include performance bonds/letters of credit for demolition and completion of the project. The Commission may condition the issuance of a demolition approval on the applicant's receipt of all other necessary approvals and permits for the post demolition plan. The materials submitted do not provide any documentation regarding criteria 1. In fact, the Foundation has periodically contacted the owners to offer assistance with the preservation of the buildings. During my 12-year tenure as Executive Director of the Saratoga Springs Preservation I have only had one meeting with Helen and Case Simpson where 65 and 69 Phila Street were discussed. At the meeting that took place on September 25,2017 the Phila Street properties were not the only ones discussed. They also discussed 68 and 74 Caroline Street and 32 Park Place. I expressed to them that the Foundation had great interest in seeing the three houses listed on the Ten to Save list that they owned—32 Park Place and 65 and 69 Phila Street— preserved. I shared that numerous potential buyers interested in preserving the properties had contacted the Foundation and that at that time the properties were eligible for both federal and state rehabilitation tax credits,which could offset as much as 40% of the rehabilitation costs. I offered to assist them with seeking those credits. While Helen followed up with me regarding questions about the other properties they owned, the owners never sought any assistance with applying for the rehabilitation tax credits or further discussed the potential for preserving the buildings at 65 & 69 Phila Street. A single meeting with the Foundation does not constitute a "good faith"effort to preserve the buildings. In addition,during my tenure at the Foundation,the owners have never asked to consult with the Design Review Commission to determine a way to preserve the buildings. I am also unaware of any attempts prior to 2008 by the owners to consult with the Design Review Commission. The lack of any meaningful effort to seek alternatives by working with the Foundation and Design Review Commission demonstrates their intention to allow the buildings to deteriorate. Therefore, criteria 1. of the demolition requirements have not been met. The owners recently submitted documentation of inquiries about both buildings. The list does not appear to be complete as it does not list the names of several people who have submitted letters to the Design Review Commission, Mark Haworth & Sonny Bonacio, Colleen Brady, and Sandra Chase indicating their desire to purchase and preserve the buildings. As previously mentioned in my letter dated August 12, 2020, the Foundation has been contacted countless times by potential buyers and offered to assist them by providing copies of the structural assessments performed in 2017 on the behalf of the City of Saratoga Springs as well as the assessments that the Foundation underwrote in 2017 for a potential buyer, Jack Bartozek, and offered to assist with securing rehabilitation tax credits, which prior to April 1, 2020 would have provided up to 40% of the rehabilitation costs in the form of a tax credit. Since the owners last court appearance, I have been contacted by four potential buyers.The applicants apparently only consider formal written offers for the properties. It is my understanding that several buyers have not had calls or emails returned by the owner, while others have been discouraged by their conversations with the owners regarding the sale price therefore they do not take the formal step to make a written offer. To the Foundation's knowledge, none of the interested parties since the owners purchased the buildings have been successful in negotiating a price to purchase one or both of the buildings, indicating that the owners have ignored market pricing to seek maximum financial gain. The owners cannot arbitrarily place an unrealistic sales price on the property and then claim the property cannot be sold. The price must reflect a true and accurate value of the specific property. In this instance, that value must consider the preservation requirements mandated by the City. For example, if these properties were listed at their current tax assessment value(instead of the current listing of$247,900 for 65 Phila Street and the most recent expired listing of$279,900 for 69 Phila Street or at $600,000 for both as indicated in a note for the listing of 65 Phila Street) even more potential buyers could emerge and the existing offers reflect the true value of the property. The listing for 69 Phila has been expired for several months indicating that they are not interested in finding a buyer who would preserve the building. The most recent information submitted does not demonstrate that the structures cannot be adapted for any other permitted use,whether by the current owner or by a purchaser,which would result in a reasonable return,criteria 3. They write that they reviewed a plan to make 69 Phila Street into three units and that a tree fell on the building and then 65 Phila Street was for sale. At that time, they were under no obligation to purchase a second property. They chose to purchase a second property and apparently did not have the appropriate insurance to cover the damage to the building caused by the tree falling. Regardless, it does not appear that they have reviewed that plan since 2002. Again, not a "good faith" effort. They also attempted more than 15 years ago to construct a third structure, which was not approved because of its size and design. It is not to say another design or smaller structure could not be approved. Since that time they have not made any good faith effort to find alternatives for other permitted uses. Instead they have chosen to allow the properties to deteriorate. Regardless, the law does not guarantee the highest maximum return on investment.In many cases, the law imposes a duty on property owners to comply with an array of zoning, building, code requirements often resulting in great expense to the property owner. Not only have the owners created their own hardship, but they continue to perpetuate the hardship each time a buyer is refused and for each passing day, year, and decade, of elective inaction. Emphasis should be placed on the legal position that the owner is not entitled to receive any profit, let alone a maximum profit and that this is a self-created hardship. As far as the applicant submitting evidence that the property is not capable of earning a reasonable return regardless of whether that return represents the most profitable return possible, Criteria 4., the owner has included unnecessary expenses such as $335,450 in carrying costs, costs that could have been avoided if at the time of purchase they had rehabilitated the structures; $30,000 for Vacant Building Registry Fees, which are fees of their own creation since they have failed to have the buildings be occupied in five years; and$30,000 legal fees—fees that could have gone towards repairs of the buildings. These items alone total $395,000, Expenses that could have been avoided. Also their costs for the properties include $69,000 for the construction of two-car garages; $25,000 for plantings;and$9,000 for a fireplace for a total of$103,000. These items are amenities that are welcomed, but not necessary. Furthermore, the owners had the opportunity to seek federal and state rehabilitation tax credits, that would have offset 40%of the rehabilitation costs—approximately$744,832. However,the owners did not seek to use these programs when they were available. As of April 1, 2020 the properties are no longer eligible for the state rehabilitation tax credits. Unlike an unsophisticated purchaser who unwittingly engages in a self-created hardship, the current owner is, and has been, a sophisticated professional real estate agent and multiple rental property owner with the knowledge and resources to comply with the Historic Review Ordinance. There is no doubt that the applicant is seeking to avoid the affirmative duty to preserve the properties. The technique they are employing is known as "demolition by neglect." To allow the structures to deteriorate is essentially an end-run around current zoning and the New York State Property Maintenance Code for the simple purpose of seeking additional profit. The July 10,2017 report from the Saratoga Springs Fire Department summarizes Inspector Jack Donnelly's notes that the structure must have"immediate repairs."Nearly four years later,no attempt has been made to comply with the order for immediate repairs. Noting that the applications are woefully incomplete and the applicants have asked to be adjourned from the Design Review Commission agenda twice,this appears to be a further delay tactic to avoid addressing the issues that bring them before City Court. It appears that both properties are not properly sealed thus allowing for continued exposure to the elements and further deterioration. It is the Foundation's belief that these properties do not meet the minimum New York State Property Maintenance Code. The Foundation respectfully asks that these buildings be immediately inspected and be made compliant with all requirements of the New York State Property Maintenance Code and the Vacant Building Registry of the City of Saratoga Springs. Sections of the NYS Property Maintenance Code that are relevant to these properties: • §301.3 Vacant Structures and Land • Vacant structures and premises thereof or vacant land shall be maintained in a clean, safe, secure and sanitary condition as provided herein so as not to cause a blighting problem or adversely affect the public health or safety. • §302 Exterior Property Areas • Exterior property and premises shall be maintained in a clean, safe and sanitary condition. • Covers grading and drainage, sidewalks and driveways, weeds, rodent harborage, accessory structures and defacement of property • §304 Exterior Structure • The exterior of a structure shall be maintained in good repair, structurally sound and sanitary so as not to pose a threat to the public health, safety or welfare. • Covers unsafe conditions (which must be repaired), paint, foundation walls, exterior walls, roofs, decorative features, overhangs, porches, chimneys, windows,doors,etc. • §305 Interior Structure • The interior of a structure and equipment therein shall be maintained in good repair, structurally sound and in a sanitary condition. • Other Sections • Other sections cover component serviceability, handrails and guardrails, rubbish and garbage, and pest elimination. In addition,the plywood covering the rear walls and windows,porch railings and columns, and the chain-link fence around the property are not in accordance with the City's Historic Review Ordinance. While initially thought to be temporary, those measures have been in place for several years. They do not meet the standards and design guidelines of the Historic Review Ordinance. The owners should be required to comply with the Historic Review Ordinance. In addition, Section 7.4.10 Maintenance and Repair of the Historic Review Ordinance states: No owner or person with an interest in real property designated as a City Landmark or included within a Historic District shall permit the property to fall into a serious state of disrepair so as to result in the deterioration of any exterior architectural feature which would, in the judgement of the Commission, produce a detrimental effect upon the character of the Historic District as a whole or the life and character of the property itself. Examples include: 1. Deterioration of exterior walls or other vertical supports 2. Deterioration of roofs or other horizontal members 3. Deterioration of exterior chimneys 4. Deterioration or crumbling of exterior stucco or mortar 5. Ineffective waterproofmg of exterior walls, roofs or foundations including broken windows or doors 6. Deterioration of any feature so as to create a hazardous condition that would lead to the claim that demolition is necessary for public safety. Both properties show signs of several of the examples Iisted above. The actions of the owners, effectively, are "demolition by neglect" and are negatively impacting their neighbors,many of whom have submitted comments to the Design Review Commission objecting to the demolition of these two properties. These owners have spent money on attorneys and engineers as well as vacant building register and court fees to demolish the historic structures and invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to construct new buildings rather than spend those dollars on repairing and preserving the existing buildings. The difference in the cost to construct new versus to preserve is nearly negligible-any differences could have been easily of-set by the use of the state and federal rehabilitation tax credits. It is not only unfair to these adjacent property owners, but it is unfair to all of property owners in Saratoga Springs who have followed the City's ordinances and maintained and preserved their properties by investing their time and money. Furthermore, the City of Saratoga Springs has expended countless hours and resources in attempts to address these two properties - code enforcement officers, attorneys, and planners. The value of these resources go far beyond what these owners pay in taxes and are a true burden to the City and its tax payers. In addition,the City of Saratoga Springs, Saratoga Springs School District, Saratoga County, and State of New York are not receiving important tax revenue that these buildings would provide were they preserved and restored--certainly far more than in their present condition. The applicants have failed to meet the criteria set forth in the Historic Review Ordinance for demolition of an architectural and/or historically significant structure. The Design Review Commission should deny the application to demolish the two structures and seek further action to remedy that they are not compliant with Section 7.4.10 Maintenance and Repair of the Historic Review Ordinance. Do not reward those who have intentionally neglected our city's historic resources for nearly 20 years. Deny their application based on the facts that have been presented that they have not met all of the criteria required. Sincerely, /1.4/V ?4,1•700..--a-Caist c6,441-418-1 Adam N. Favro Samantha Bosshart President Executive Director Cc: Helen& Case Simpson Matt Chauvin, Owner Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis, City Attorney Tony Izzo, Assistant City Attorney Robin Dalton, Commissioner of Public Safety Eileen Finneran, Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety Meg Kelly,Mayor Lisa Shields, Deputy Mayor Amanda Tucker, Senior Planner Tamie Ehinger,Design Review Commission, Chair