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Springville Journal letter to the editor: Village government needs to focus on vacant properties

On Saturday, June 22, 2013, residents gathered to watch the Springville Hotel be demolished. Over a century of stories and history was brought down, in an afternoon.

The hotel had reached crisis state and action was taken. What too few realize is that the demolition began, at least 15 years ago. Our officials relegated the hotel to rubble status long before, by deciding, time and again, to take no action.

The Leland House was supposed to be the wake up call. After the demolition, I was asked to help form the Village Historic Preservation Commission.

This became seven years of total frustration. What was supposed to preserve historic treasures degenerated into a toothless entity the trustees saw as a threat. It is ridiculous to force people to get approvals for signs and minor improvements, when a building down the street is collapsing in on itself.

Now, a Distressed Properties Task Force has been created. At present, this committee is focused on helping residents who can’t afford to fix up their houses. Though a great service, this new task force is again failing to address the bigger problem: irresponsible and nonexistent landowners.

Without the meaningful participation of village government, other efforts are doomed to fail. We need leadership on this issue and we are getting inaction. Right now, there are many buildings that are on the exact same track as the hotel. The circumstances may be different, but the general gist is the same.

Properties are falling apart. Code enforcement is rarely pursued, especially when there is an absent owner. The banks or the county can’t be depended on to foreclose. It’s just a matter of time. It’s called “demolition by neglect.” How many more?

I live across the street from a vacant property. The eaves are falling off. On my walk to work, I pass another vacant building with a failed roof. I pass the hotel site. I pass Bill’s Sports Shop, now neglected by an out-of-towner. I glance down South Buffalo Street and see the gorgeous Victorian home painted half blue and crumbling. I pass 5 East Main St., which never should have gotten that bad. I pass the Leland House site.

Is downtown doomed to be torn down, one building at a time, until we are nothing more than a state highway with a few historic markers? Maybe the village should look at its own letterhead, for a reminder of what they value. “Historic Springville” shouldn’t be history.

Eminent domain was proposed, years ago. At a cost of $15,000, it would have wiped out all of the back taxes owed on the hotel. We spent what had to be well over $80,000 on demolition and the lot will forever be undeveloped, because of the back taxes.

The Leland House may not have been the wake up call our elected leaders needed, but the hotel needs to be the rallying cry for change. Make your voice heard.

Seth Wochensky
Revitalize Springville

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