GLENS FALLS — The owner of the 14 Culvert St. building set on fire by an arsonist one year ago said Wednesday he will build six two-bedroom townhouses at the property and hopes to demolish the existing structure next month.
The Common Council has expressed concern about the lack of progress at the site, following the September 2016 fire, and on Tuesday set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Oct. 10 to invite the homeowner in to discuss the situation.
Culvert is a one-way street that runs from Maple to Warren streets, in between Center and Oak streets.
The building was heavily damaged on Sept. 16, 2016 when Aditep S. “Tepi” White threw a cigarette butt into a flower pot on an upstairs porch and it caught clothes on fire. The fire displaced 13 tenants.
Mike Stevens, owner of 14 Culvert St., said he has been upset by comments from Mayor Jack Diamond that the property is being neglected. Stevens said he has kept city officials abreast of what is happening at the site since he bought the property in February for $1 from the former owner, Bill Davidson.
“We’ve been in contact with the building and codes department the whole time,” Stevens said.
After buying the property, Stevens said he hired an architect to design a building to replace what is there with a similar structure. But building code standards have tightened for insulation, windows, lighting and energy usage, he said. He would have had to put in an elevator and make other changes that were not cost-effective.
He decided to create a new plan, for three townhouses on the front of the property and three in the rear.
He has submitted plans to Code Enforcement Officer John Ward, he said, and he believes the mayor was informed.
A common driveway sits between the burned building and another building, and he will have to truck in fill to regrade the site after removing the structure, he said.
He hopes to apply for building and demolition permits by the end of this month or early October.
Stevens said the hurricanes that hit Texas and Florida have complicated the situation, because building materials may become difficult to obtain.
If necessary, Stevens said he will tear down the burned building and regrade the site, even if he can’t start the new project.
“One way or the other, it will be taken down by the end of October,” he said.
Stevens said he has experience in building single-family homes in the city.
Davidson, the former owner, spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting to say he had been a responsible property owner after the fire.
“I immediately boarded up the building and secured it that very next day,” he said.
Davidson said he had to wait four months to settle the claim with the insurance company.
“The public adjuster I hired said, ‘Don’t touch the building until you receive a check,’” he said.
That did not happen until Jan. 17, according to Davidson. He then sold the property.
Diamond pointed out that Davidson chose to sell the property.
“You certainly had the opportunity as the owner to take the responsibility and tear it down if you chose to do that,” he said.
Diamond said Wednesday he had been informed by the buildings and codes officer about Stevens’ plans, but he reiterated his concerns. He pointed out that people often say they are going to do something.
“The only time we can motivate them is to bring them in front of a judge or, in this case, in front the Common Council members,” he said.
Also the subject of a public hearing on Oct. 10 will be a house at 31 Grand St. that has been vacant for more than a dozen years and has furnishings, mattresses and other household items piled up in various rooms. The house has a sagging roof. A barnlike building is also located on the site.
Resident Will Venner of 14 Cameron Ave. alerted the council to what he called a continuing problem at 12 Cameron Ave. Garbage is piled up at the property, including old furniture on the porch and unregistered vehicles in the yard.
Cameron is located off Sanford Street, near Ridge.
Diamond assured him the city is working on the issue.
“I apologize for what you’ve had to go through,” he said.
The property is owned by Stephen Gram of Fort Edward, who bought it in 2014 for $5,000 from Douglas Rumpf.
In other business, the city has received an offer from a prospective buyer for a vacant warehouse at 222 Maple St. The city has advertised the site on three separate occasions, but is giving people until 9 a.m. Sept. 25 to make any last-minute bids.