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ImageSince the last restaurant in the old Chris & Greens building on East Shore Drive closed years ago the possibility of demolishing the prominent eyesore has been brought up every year at Lansing Town Board meetings.  For years there was nothing the Town could do because the building was structurally sound.  Now the integrity of the building is not as sure, but Town officials say they would like to work cooperatively with the owner to come to a mutually beneficial solution.

"I'm going to try to get him in here to talk to Jeff about the possibilities," Town Supervisor Scott Pinney said.  "I think we have something that will work."

When councilman Marty Christopher raised the issue at Wednesday's board meeting Pinney said he is trying to reach the owner to talk about options the Town can offer.  He said that Engineering and Planning Coordinator Jeff Overstrom has researched ideas the Town can use to make it reasonable and possible for the owner to develop the property attractively.

Pinney explained that the building has stood this long to protect the owner's right to build in the same footprint as the old building.  If it were to be demolished, the new construction would have to meet new restrictions, in part because the road was enlarged, pushing back allowed setbacks and reducing the size of a new building.  But even if the building is condemnable, board members said they are reluctant to go that route.

"I think we all agree it's an eyesore," cautioned Deputy Supervisor Connie Wilcox.  "If you want to declare that an unsafe building and you force him to clean that up there are a lot of other sites in this town that are just as bad or worse.  You want to be careful what path you go down."


Councilwoman Kathy Miller asked about liability and Town attorney Guy Krogh explained that the landowner would probably be the one to be sued if a child were hurt there. 

"The town could potentially be named," he said.  "They wouldn't have much of a claim, because code enforcement is a discretionary act and you can't be compelled to do it.  That said, the Town and State's unsafe building laws allow you to exercise the condemnation of a building for any number of reasons."

He cautioned the board to use the power of condemnation very carefully, because resulting lawsuits are lengthy and expensive.

"We don't want to go that path," Pinney said.  "We want to go down a path that's mutually beneficial for the owner and the Town at the same time."

Overstrom said that in recent years a couple of buildings were posted because of the potential  for the building to fall into a roadway.  Krogh noted that those cases were resolved cooperatively with the owners.  Overstrom added that there are other property owners he has contacted, asking for an action plan for dealing with buildings that don't meet standards.  He said that 90% of the owners have been willing to work cooperatively with the town.

"We're willing to work with them if they're willing to work with us," Overstrom said.  "There are also some unique structures in town that people would like to fix up.  They're working with us and I'm working with them."

"Some people look at that as the entrance to Lansing," Miller said.  "The first thing you see, when you come to Lansing and what could be part of a potential town center, is this building.  When I talk to people about the Town Center there are three things they mention all the time.  One asked if kids got in there could they be hurt?  So people are thinking about this."

"Our lack of action is saying something as well," noted councilman Robert Cree.

Pinney advocated proactively working with the owner to come up with workable solutions that will benefit him as well as the Town.  He noted that the property is a money-loser as long as the old building continues to deteriorate, and said that Overstrom has researched options the Town can offer when the owner eventually wants to put a commercial building on the site.

"If he came in and talked to Jeff he would see there are commercial things he can build there and still be in the legal limits if he tears it down," Pinney said. "One of the concerns a year ago was that the Town wanted to give him a letter saying that if he tore it down he could build within the same footprint five or ten years down the road -- whenever he wanted to.  The problem was that we couldn't give him that letter legally.  Now Jeff has looked into zoning and commercial things we can do, and there are many different options."


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