Parcel sale process draws ire of neighbor
ROME — A River Street homeowner argued her proposal to purchase additional property on River Street was rejected illegally during public comments made during Wednesday’s Common Council meeting held in Council Chambers of City Hall.
Shelly Gardner, of 118 River St., opened her remarks by playing a portion of singer Joni Mitchell’s song ”Big Yellow Taxi,” claiming the city wrongfully accepted a bid from Bryant Property Management to purchase 116 River St. for $1,500, and turn the parcel — which could be part of an orchard paradise — into a paved parking lot.
Ordinance 9554, which called for approval of the sale of the city-owned parcel, was later requested to be removed from the agenda by city Real Property Committee Chairman Nicholas Facciolo. City officials said the withdrawal had nothing to do with the bidding — which they say was done properly — but rather a strictly procedural issue.
Chief Codes Enforcement Officer Mark Domenico said the ordinance was requested to be removed because a matter about the property’s zoning must first be rectified. Bryant Property Management and owner Frank Raspante are scheduled to appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals on the matter in February.
Gardner, who purchased her home at neighboring 118 River St. in 2015 and has lived there since 2016, said of the more than 30 homes on her street, she is among only seven actual homeowners in the neighborhood, while the majority are rental properties.
Gardner and her attorney, Nadine C. Bell, of Costello, Cooney & Fearon, LLC, Syracuse, argue that Gardner submitted a “Proposal to Purchase Property Acquired by the City of Rome Through Tax Foreclosure,” dated Oct. 27, with a proposed design, narrative, etc., and that “timely receipt” was recorded by the city on Oct. 31. In the narrative Gardner stated she “intended to repair the existing garage, merge the property with her adjoining parcel, install a ‘green’ driveway, plant fruit trees,” etc. Gardner’s offer included a $1,000 purchase price, and estimated that the value of improvements to the property would be around $6,200.
Bryant Property Management also submitted a sealed proposal, offering to buy 116 River St. for $1,500, with an investment value of between $5,000 to $6,000. However, Gardner and her attorney claim Bryant Property Management included a letter dated Nov. 1 with his proposal, which was after the deadline.
“This is a travesty and embarrassing” for the city,” said Gardner. “I enjoy my beautiful, wonderful space all I wanted was to plant an orchard, and I even hired an architect to put an expansion on the house.”
As for the tardy paperwork, “My attorney pointed this out to every single one of you ... and now who’s to police these people?,” she asked. “Corporation Counsel was at the meeting and they didn’t even say this proposal is out of line and has a piece beyond the cutoff date.”
After Gardner was given additional time over her five-minute limit to speak by other residents during the public comment portion of the meeting, Maryann Root and her husband Thomas, of 121 River St., spoke in favor of Gardner and her argument.
“As a homeowner on this street, I would want this (purchase) for myself, and I feel that homeowners are more apt to make the investment in the property, rather than a rental,” Maryann Root said.
Thomas Root said the city should take into consideration homeowners who are trying to improve the neighborhood.
“I grew up in Rome and I can remember that River Street was a beautiful street at one time, and it needs to be cleaned up again,” he said.
Following the council meeting, Chief Codes Enforcement Officer Domenico said both Gardner and Bryant Property Management submitted complete applications with a bid price for 116 River St. prior to the deadline in a sealed bid.
“Bryant Property Management also wanted to provide to the board additional supplemental information that was above and beyond what was required in the application,” Domenico explained. “And it did not alter the purchase price that was in his bid that was received prior to the deadline. It didn’t fill in blanks of an incomplete application, or alter the purchase price.”
As for Ordinance 9554 being removed from the table, “it was withdrawn because this property — when all the flood damage was down there (last year), — when (the owner) was given a Certificate of Occupancy after repairs from the flood were made, the Certificate to Occupancy was based on the condition it was, when the inspector was in it, which was a three unit,” said Domenico. “Come to find out, the prior owner of the building in 2017 got a conversion permit to convert the property from a three-family to a two-family. And because the building is located within a professional residential district, which doesn’t allow three-family dwellings, Bryant Property Management is now subject to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a use variance to re-establish the residence as a three-family.”
He said, “It was Bryant Property Management’s assumption that he (Raspante) owned a three-unit. When we evaluated both proposals, we were looking at and evaluating Bryant’s argument that he needed additional off-street parking to support his three-unit building. At this point, I requested this matter be withdrawn to give Bryant Property Management the ability to approach the Zoning Board regarding the zoning issue, which will take place in February. Once we understand the results of that proceeding, we’ll move forward with the disposition of the property.”
Domenico said if the Zoning Board votes to convert the property back to a two-family dwelling, then public bids would re-open for 116 River St.
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