Ogdensburg sells Rensselaer Ave. home to Growth Fund for $1, Skamperle opposes deal
Tuesday, April 29, 2014 - 11:38 am

By JIMMY LAWTON

OGDENSBURG – Following a lengthy discussion, City Council agreed to sell a 611 Rensselaer Avenue property to the Ogdensburg Growth Fund Development Corp. for $1 Monday night.

The proposal came from the Growth Fund, which apparently has an engineering and rehabilitation estimate from the Development Authority of the North Country.

Planning director Andrea Smith, who spoke on behalf of the Growth Fund, said the plan called for the rehabilitation and sale of the property, which is currently not up to code.

She told city councilors that rough estimates on demolition cost for the property ranged from $15,000 to $30,000, but added that those numbers were not firm.

Councilman Dan Skamperle, who voted no to the sale, said he would like to see provisions added that would prevent the rehabilitated home from being sold to anyone related or connected to City Council, the Growth Fund or DANC.

Smith said that such a restriction would be illegal, as it would violate the fair housing act. Mayor William Nelson said it could open the city up to potential discriminations lawsuits. Nelson, who also serves on the Growth Fund board, said he recused himself from discussions regarding the property during Growth Fund meetings so that he could discuss the sale with City Council.

Skamperle also said he would like to see similar offers made to contractors in the future.

“I’d like to see 10 properties sold to 10 contractors for $1 each,” he said.

That sentiment was supported strongly by councilors William Hosmer, Jennifer Stevenson and Deputy Mayor Michael Morley.

Nelson said such an offer could be entertained, but added that no contractor has approached the city with an offer and plan similar to the one proposed by the Growth Fund. He said the Growth Fund took the initiative and has already spent roughly $4,000 on engineering and estimates associated with their plan. He said the Growth Fund has also shared its intent to market the property following the construction phase.

Nelson said the selling the property to the Growth Fund would be a benefit to the city, since it would alleviate the need for demolition and create a tax-generating parcel.

“I’m happy the Growth Fund is taking this on,” he said.

Councilor Wayne Ashley said he is big opponent of the city getting into the real estate business, but despite he reservations he believes this is a good deal for Ogdensburg.

Stevenson said she the property has holes in the roof and is deteriorating rapidly. She said the deal was a clear benefit to the city as it would bring a debilitated property up to code and put it on the tax roll.

Councilor Hosmer also supported the deal, but said he would like to see contractors making similar offers in the future.

“I hope other contractors come forward with offers,” he said.

Councilor Stevenson agreed.

“Bring us and idea, bring us an offer,” she said.

City council approved the sale 6-1 with councilor Skamperle opposed.