News & Updates | Chautauqua County Land Bank

And the walls fall down

Posted on Saturday, September 26, 2015 at 1:03 PM

From the Dunkirk Observer

The city of Dunkirk will be opening bids Monday for asbestos surveys on seven properties that would get them closer to demolition. The seven include 31 N. Pangolin St., 630-632 Grant Ave., 215 Leopard St., 75 W. Doughty St., 208 Antelope St., 60 E. Seventh St. and 707 Main St., where the garage will remain.

The properties are all part of the Chautauqua County Land Bank program and Mayor Anthony J. Dolce was asked about the city's role in the process.

"When it originally came together, Development Director (Steve) Neratko represented the city and helped with the initial work and attended most of the Land Bank meetings to help get it established. Now that it has evolved to Lauri Gawronski as CDBG administrator and Al Zurawski as code enforcement, working with Gina Paradis and Mark Geise just to keep everything in order," Dolce replied. "It did originally take a little while to get off the ground, but with it being a new program there was a lot of new items to cross off the check list before you can just start tearing houses down."

Dolce said the city uses its Community Development Block Grant funds as "leverage." The city has already taken down six properties, with funding available in this round for up to 20 houses.

"After the next seven we'll have 13 down by the end of the year and we'll keep going by using the matching land bank and HUD funds to keep the program going. This helps us spend down HUD funds," Dolce added. "It's just a fantastic program. One of the top issues as mayor I've dealt with and get a lot of calls and concerns is, 'hey, that house down the street, that house next door.'

"This program gives us the opportunity to tear down some of those houses. It also offers a great opportunity for some people to rehab. There's been some great developers or contractors out there that have rehabbed these homes and just re-established the character of the neighborhood by rehabbing these homes and putting them back on the market and enticing good homeowners to habitate them."

After demolition the lots are offered to neighbors on either side for eventual purchase, either splitting the lot or one buying it, which puts it back on the tax rolls.

"Once they're down it has such a positive impact on the neighborhood. So you have to wait until properties become available and then you assess the condition. The land bank can also make the determination, is this one worth rehabbing versus demolishing," Dolce stated. "Land Bank owns them and acquires them through tax foreclosures and then the county turns them over to the land bank. There's other means to turn them over to the land bank, but the key is they need to be turned over to the land bank in order to make it a successful project."

Dolce said most of the properties have been in the sights of Zurawski for years and the land bank gives the city the "vehicle."

"This program gives us that opportunity, it's just a tremendous program. It has a direct, positive impact on the quality of life for many residents," he added. "It's taken time to get this HUD stuff straightened out, but now we're really starting to see the benefits of it."

Zurawski was asked about the technical aspects involved in the demolition program.

"The first step in the process is the asbestos surveys. Once the contract is assigned they'll check the house for asbestos, identify if there is, then we'll have to go for asbestos abatement, another bid process," he replied. "Once we have the asbestos abatement completed, we go for the demolition bids and then get the house demolished. ... Hopefully, we can get them done before the end of the year, we're certainly pushing for it."

So far this year under the land bank program houses at 209 Lake Shore Drive E., 101 Park Ave., 423 Swan St., 108 Moffat St. and 66 E. Second St. have been demolished.


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