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Not worth the effort

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Members of the Sackets Harbor village Board of Trustees have mounted a fight against progress.

During a July 10 meeting, they unanimously gave Mayor Eric F. Constance the authority to start creating a moratorium on the demolition of two buildings at Madison Barracks. Developer Michael A. Lawler had previously filed an application to raze the theater and mess hall, a process that fulfilled multiple village requirements.

But trustees want the option of pulling the rug out from underneath Mr. Lawler if the Planning Board rules in his favor this Wednesday. The trustees stopped short of creating the moratorium themselves last week but have left the door open for Mayor Constance to pull the trigger.

The buildings on Pike Road were constructed in the late 1800s and obviously have a great deal of sentimental value to many people in the village. Destroying such a significant part of a community’s history should not be taken lightly, and we appreciate the desire of village leaders and residents to preserve this portion of their past. More than 45 people attended a Planning Board meeting last month to express their opposition to the idea.

But the structures have been vacant for the past 60 years, and no one has come up with a plan to use them in all that time. It would take millions of dollars to renovate the buildings, according to research conducted by an engineer hired by Mr. Lawler, and who has that kind of money these days to do that kind of work?

The buildings are located within a historic district in Sackets Harbor. As such, demolition is contingent upon whether they are either incompatible to the rest of the district, a safety hazard, deteriorated past economic viability or incapable of earning an economic return of their value.

Mr. Lawler said the buildings meet three of these four criteria, and he has a valid point. If they had any viable use and could sustain themselves financially, why hasn’t anyone come forward in all these years to propose such a plan?

Aside from keeping these abandoned buildings from being torn down, placing a moratorium on demolition would risk legal action. Mr. Lawler said he would take the issue to court if village officials continue to thwart his plans. That could prove very costly for Sackets Harbor, and the effort to maintain the status quo would likely fail in the end.

If some village officials or residents have a plan for renovating the buildings and putting them to better use, let’s hear it. It would good to compare any such plan to what Mr. Lawler has proposed.

Mr. Lawler is the only person with an option on the table. Everyone else is just expressing wishful thinking.

Mayor Constance previously said he hoped the Planning Board would hold off on approving demolition of the two buildings. His rationale? While money to renovate them is not available now, it may become available in the future.

Really? When? In a year? Two years? Five years? A decade? Another six decades?

Supporters of the buildings must accept that time in this game has run out. Officials must avoid potential legal action and allow Mr. Lawler’s project to go forward. It’s the only practical plan for this site, and throwing roadblocks in his way will be both expensive and fruitless.

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