“I look forward to a long relationship with the Village of Wellsville and the Wellsville community”
By Tarek Otero, owner of Iris and William LLC
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” – John Adams
I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the Sun’s 3/31/23 response letter from the Village of Wellsville Attorney Richard Buck about the Village’s offer of $32,000 to buy a portion of my property for village parking. Mr. Buck was generous in the use of my name in his response and as such I thought it only right that I respond directly. An important fact was omitted from Mr. Buck’s depiction of the story; the property was not then, nor is currently, for sale. It was of keen interest to me as a business owner and resident of Wellsville that Village dollars of “over $4,500” according to Buck, were spent to appraise a property that was not for sale. Was the appraisal done based on the size of the asphalt or was the appraisal based on the tax revenue those spaces generate to the village by way of the business owners who use them? It’s a moot point but one that should be considered as an important part of this story.
Mr. Buck believes I am using a “negotiating tactic” and “attempting to strong arm the Village” into paying several thousand dollars a year to lease “about 20 spots”, when in fact the reason I have not provided a number for the sale of my parking lot, is because the parking lot is not for sale. I have though, in good faith made the Village two lease offers.
I believe, strong-arm might be a good word to describe the Village’s dealings with former owners like Karla and Alan Hills who own Alan Hills Carpet. You’ll notice their name is not on the leases provided by Mr. Buck. Mr. Buck provides some history in his letter that over the last 50 years, the Village had “agreements” in place which (in 1970) paid “$100 a year plus Village maintenance, repair and paving and “later” (in 1989) just maintenance, repair, and paving” to the then owners of the property. One would believe from Mr. Buck that the Village had leases in place for 50 years but when you look closer, you’ll see there are more years without leases in place than with. One would wonder what transpired to go from leasing the lot for $100 a year plus maintenance according to Buck, to $0 plus maintenance. Even more eyebrow raising is the omitted detail in Mr. Buck’s summary of the $100 lease from 1970. That lease reads “….at the annual rental of the sum of money paid by the owner or Lessee on the premises which are the subject matter of this Agreement for state, county, town, school and village real estate taxes annually, plus the sum of One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) per year….” That small detail about taxes makes that lease, in my opinion, a fair agreement as it benefits both the Village and the property owner. The subsequent 1989 lease agreement after a nine-year gap was clearly lopsided and to the benefit solely of the Village and not the property owner as I see it. When you take into consideration the tax revenue those spots generate, well, there are smart people reading this and they will start to see what has transpired and how the current campaign against me is geared toward the same outcome.
Regarding my initial lease offer of $1250 per month, it was not rejected by Mayor Shayler as Mr. Buck indicates in his letter. In fact, at the next meeting on the subject, Mayor Shayler asked me if there was room to work in that number and I invited him to walk the property. I offered the mayor during that walk to lease the parking lot to the Village for $500 per month plus maintenance, paving and repair. That offer has also not been rejected to date. As a matter of fact, that $500 per month offer was the basis for the short-term private license that left the lot open during the four months of the holiday season. Despite my many attempts to reach Mayor Randy Shayler to discuss a lease deal, my emails and texts were left unanswered. It seems to me the Village only wants to discuss purchasing my property and refuses to discuss leasing my property. As of March 1, 2023, the Village had no license or lease to use the property and made no attempt to secure a license or lease for temporary or long-term use of the lot. I continued to attempt to reach Mayor Shayler to no avail and on March 27, 2023, I had a sign placed that the parking lot was not for public use. People who parked in the lot thereafter were issued courtesy tickets.
Last fall, out of respect for my fellow business owners I visited Chelsea’s Catering, Tim Shea’s Plumbing and Rub a Dub Coin Laundry to advise Chelsea Burdick, Tim Shea, and Mike Raptis that if there wasn’t a lease in place with the Village, the lot may be closed to public use. Chelsea and Mike at that time, both expressed interest in reserving spots for their business use. There were no formal lease agreements made with Chelsea Burdick or Mike Raptis because the Village then expressed interest in temporarily renting, leasing, or licensing the lot to keep it open during the holidays and did so for three months and then extended an extra month through February. As Mike Raptis has some dedicated parking for his business and Chelsea Burdick does not, I have made room for several dedicated spots in my lot for Chelsea’s Catering, free of charge until this issue gets sorted out. Chelsea’s is closed this week, but they will have access to the lot when they return next week so their business won’t be impacted because of this dispute. I would like to acknowledge Mike Raptis and thank him for being the first businessperson to welcome me to Wellsville and for his guidance on this matter as well as other Village matters. Mike was so helpful and welcoming to me and I want to thank him publicly for that support.
Mr. Buck describes the lot as having “about 20 spaces” because the lot hasn’t been striped yet. I had the spaces measured on 4/2/23 and confirmed 35 spots. I am curious if that striping was supposed to be part of the maintenance that was done last summer but I do agree with Mr. Buck that I assign no value to the maintenance performed on the lot before I became owner. The price I paid for the property took that into consideration and it is not relevant to any lease negotiation between me and the Village.
I chose Wellsville. I chose to buy property in Wellsville. I chose to live in Wellsville. I chose to become a part of the Wellsville community and I am a part of the “resurgence” former Trustee Timothy Colligan talks about in his letter to the editor on 3/31/23. My interest and investment in Wellsville is, in some small part, the reason the Village was awarded a $4.5 million grant from New York State for the NY Forward program. I agree with Colligan’s opinion that there is a “parking management issue” and I believe that issue falls squarely on the Village to correct. Mr. Colligan comments “…. if you had a business that required a vast turnover of parking spots to your specific customers, I could almost be sympathetic to your cause, but I don’t see that.” So, is Mr. Colligan’s position then, that I should donate my property to the community? Would you do the same for your personal residence or business real estate in the village? Mr. Colligan would like me to be a “good community partner”. What does that mean? Would you, Mr. Colligan allow a hit to your property value and resale value by cutting off a piece of your property in the spirit of being a good community partner? Why is it my responsibility to correct a problem that has existed in the Village for over 50 years, while you were a Trustee? I have made a fair and reasonable offer to the Village to lease my property to them for $500 a month plus maintenance, repair, and paving. That is being a “good community partner” as it is fair to both parties, the Village and me, and it benefits the businesses and patrons of those businesses.
Yes, maybe my response to block access to my parking lot was driven in part by emotion as Mike Raptis commented in the Sun’s 4/3/23 article, but I am not going to allow the Village to do to me what they’ve done to former owners with regard to this lot going back 31 years. The lot is not for sale. I am willing to lease it to the Village. If they are unwilling, then I will lease it in part or entirely to interested parties.
Regardless of the outcome, I look forward to a long relationship with the Village of Wellsville and the Wellsville community and I appreciate again the opportunity to be heard.
Read the recent letter from the Village of Wellsville attorney and from longtime Wellsville public servant Tim Colligan: