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Tensions reduced between village, developer as discussions continue about demolition of Madison Barracks buildings

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SACKETS HARBOR — Tensions between developer Michael A. Lawler and village officials appear to have cooled heading into tonight’s meeting of the village Planning Board, as deliberations continue over the future of the theater and mess hall buildings at Madison Barracks.

Village officials and the developer also are seeking new input for the buildings’ possible development.

Mr. Lawler said that, since the village Board of Trustees meeting last Tuesday, he and Mayor F. Eric Constance have had several conversations and a meeting that were amiable.

“We have some understandings,” Mr. Lawler said. “We’re trying to make some arrangements that work for everybody.”

At last week’s meeting, the board gave Mr. Constance the authority to enact a moratorium on all demolition work in the village’s historic district to stop the demolition of the buildings. Immediately after that meeting, Mr. Lawler said he would take the village to court if a moratorium were enacted.

The two buildings, constructed in the late 1800s, have sat empty on Pike Road for more than 60 years. The cost of repairing both buildings is estimated in the millions of dollars.

Mr. Constance on Tuesday defended the authorization based on feedback he received from village residents who oppose demolishing the buildings. He added that he felt he and Mr. Lawler were “on the same page” after their follow-up conversations.

An exploratory meeting was held Thursday with consulting firm edr Companies, Syracuse. In addition to Mr. Lawler and Mr. Constance, several members of the Board of Trustees and Planning Board attended, along with village and town of Hounsfield economic development coordinator Peter B. Bryant.

The planning and design consultants have worked with several area municipalities and agencies, including Clayton’s Local Development Corp. at the site of the former Frink snowplow factory that will become the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel.

Jane E. Rice, edr Companies’s director of planning, said her firm is putting together a preliminary proposal to further develop the barracks area, including the two buildings.

“There’s a wonderful sense of collaboration between private property owner and village and a healthy understanding of community assets,” Ms. Rice said. “Everybody’s interested in working together.”

Mr. Bryant said the meeting left him encouraged, and that he was in favor of a study of the barracks and buildings.

“I honestly believe we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “If everybody can remain calm and we move forward with this study, we can reach out to end users.”

The Planning Board meeting will take place at 7 tonight at the village office.

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