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MALTA – The Town Board on Monday settled a legal case brought by Deputy Town Clerk Jennifer Chudy, who alleged that she was harassed by Town Clerk Flo Sickels. [Read more…]
After a brief flirtation with private ownership during the month of February, the Wiggins-Collamer House is still for sale. The Town of Malta, which owns both the house and Collamer Park where it sits, now continues its four year-long quest to sell the property.
The Wiggins-Collamer House was erected in 1835 by George Wiggins, who at the time had owned the small plot of land at the corner of what is now East High Street and Route 9 since 1821. In 1972, his great-great grandson Nelson P. Collamer donated the parcel to the town, and aside from its brief role as the town hall for part of the 1970s, the building has been mostly unused since.
The house is listed by both the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the National Register of Historic Places, the only such property which the town owns outright, aiding in its preservation. The designation entitles the town and any future owner to grants and investment tax incentives.
Collamer Park, the area outside around the house, has been functioning as public space since its inception, and residents have made use of the park’s basketball court, picnic area, and green space for pets and other recreational activities. Pets are allowed on a leash, and all animal waste must be removed from the grounds by the owner. As with all town parks, alcohol and littering are prohibited.
Citing mounting maintenance costs, in June 2009 the Town of Malta decided to put the house on the market. The move was subsequently approved by the State Legislature the following summer.
The town considers sale to be a win-win situation: the intention is to subdivide the property, leaving Malta the park portion while selling the house itself.
In private hands, any owner would be obligated to preserve the house’s historic character while developing it into a residence, home business, or both.
“It’s very possible to use historic properties in a very productive way for the economy,” said Town Supervisor Paul Sausville in an interview on Tuesday, Feb. 19. “This is a good example of that.”
On Feb. 4 of this year, the town board passed a resolution accepting an offer for the Collamer House of $144,000. It was not decided what that money would be used for.
“We haven’t targeted exactly how we would spend the money,” Sausville said of the resolution, adding “(o)bviously, it would be used in a constructive and positive way.”
The lack of specifics proved to be a non-issue, however.
In unanimously passing the resolution, the buyer was granted a period of time within which the sale could be cancelled. And evidently that is exactly what happened. A search for a copy of the contract, stated to be available for public review at the Town Clerk’s office by notice given after the resolution, turned up nothing.
Following a series of visits and telephone calls by the Journal, the answer to the fate of the mysterious purchase was confirmed on Wednesday, Feb. 20 by town attorney Thomas Peterson, via town clerk Flo Sickels: the purchaser was no longer interested.
Only the prospective buyer’s last name could be ascertained, although Sausville and others believed him to be a “professional” and a “psychiatrist.” Without conclusive information on the buyer’s identity, neither assertion could be independently confirmed.
While the town had high hopes the property would finally be taken off its hands and transformed from a vacant building into an attractive business of some sort, it seems at some point the buyer had second thoughts.
The town board only fully learned of the property’s status at Monday night’s agenda meeting.
“The search continues,” Peterson said. “Purchaser took a look at the scope of the project, wasn’t up to snuff, and got cold feet.”
Board members were not pleased to learn the deal had fallen through, even less so given the time it took to find out.
“This is important, moving forward, to be communicated to the town board in a timely fashion,” board member Tara Thomas said.
For the time being, the status quo at Collamer Park remains frozen like the February air, with town officials apparently hoping spring will bring a thaw.
Bruce McClellan of Pinnacle Realty is the listing agent for the property.
Collamer Park is open daily to the public from 7:30 a.m. to sunset.
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