Recent real estate transaction puts parking in the spotlight
By Andrew Harris, photo of parking lot from MiddaughRealEstateInc.com
You have probably parked there, you may use this parking lot every day of your life. Between Madison Street and Fassett Street, between Main Street and the railroad tracks, there is a large parking lot. The former “Super Duper” and “Bells” grocery stores dominated that lot for years and the Allegany Steuben ARC occupied the former grocery store space until about 2020. Today three popular businesses exist in that parking lot: Rub-a-Dub laundromat, Tim Shea Plumbing, and Chelsea’s, a popular eatery and catering operation. Many other small businesses rely on the parking lot for customers and employees.
The lot is fairly square and holds about 100 automobiles. Several alleys, right of ways, and private portions have provided off-street parking to many shoppers, employees, tenants, and landlords without fee or restriction for about three decades.
Not that long ago, a well known Wellsville philanthropist and businessman, Walt Babbit, donated about two-thirds of that lot to the village of Wellsville. Babbit’s purpose was said to be because he knew the importance of the parking lot and wanted it the public to be able to access it. Walt knew that if that lot was private or metered or restricted in any way it meant less money spent on Main Street.
The other third of the parking lot is part of the deed to the Rockwell Building, which was just sold to a new owner. When the new owner, Tarek Otero, a retired NYC detective commercial helicopter pilot, bought the building from Karla and Alan Hills, he bought the parking lot also. When Otero asked the Hills how much the parking lot brought then in revenue the answer was, zero.
According to the Hills, when they bought the building, a 99-year lease with the village for the use of that lot had lapsed. That lease was very simple: The owner of the Rockwell Building would allow public parking without restriction in return for maintenance of the lot. That included snowplowing, which in effect was necessary for the village to function for half the year. The village also paves the parking lot, which was just completed this summer.
Karla and Alan Hills have owned the building and operated a business from the location for years. The Hills will tell you without hesitation: They have made many requests for a new lease with the village in the last two decades, without any luck.
“They never took me seriously or attempted to make an agreement. In fact, as far as I am concerned the village harassed us just for demanding a lease and we finally just sold the building,” said Hills.
When the Hills sold the building recently to Tarek Otero, the parking lot issue became an immediate hot button issue. When Otero found that the lot wasn’t being managed under any agreement and he inquired with the village. The real estate listing notes, “Prime location of North Main Street in the Village of Wellsville with approximately 30 to 56 parking spaces.” Read that whole listing.
Otero was clear: I’m not interesting in causing a problem with this lot but it needs a formal agreement. My insurance agent and lawyer tell me that I need to have a lease in place to protect me and those who use the lot.”
Besides the liablity protection, Otero has property tax expense on that lot. Operating under the previous non-existent agreement was not an option for Otero, who is a real estate investor in his retirement. He demanded an agreement from the village and has reportedly reached a tenative agreement which Mayor Randy Shayler will be presenting to the full village board tonight, October 6.
Shayler has acknowledged the lot is key to village commerce and an agreement is indeed necessary. He has meet with Otero, surveyed the property and parking lot, and will bring his findings to the rest of the village board.
Parking won’t be the only challenging issue on the village agenda for this meeting. As we have previously reported, Shayler will be bringing up the subject of vagrancy in the village and how to address the problem moving into the future. Stay tuned …