Revitalization is a common theme throughout Ogdensburg, particularly along the waterfronts. But the process hasn’t been easy for everyone. Gilbert Jones had big plans for the old Ramada Inn property, but he says those plans may not come to fruition after all. And he blames it on what he believes is a lack of support from the city. The city says it's about following proper procedure. Our Cara Thomas tells us what both sides are saying.
OGDENSBURG, N.Y. -- Gilbert Jones bought the Ramada Inn site in an auction a year ago with plans to renovate the hotel, create new upscale apartments and a marina. He says everything was going smoothly until they hit a bump in the road, or miscommunication between Jones and city officials. Jones thought he was within regulation to tear down an old shed and build a small concession stand in its place.
Ogdensburg City Manager Phil Cosmo said, "The use of the building was being changed. It wasn't so much the square footage, because it is under the 500 square feet that requires a permit, but it was the use that the building was going to be deemed for."
But Jones said, "Everybody in town thought, well, he's just bullying his way around and get away with anything, which is not true, I went by all the regulations."
Jones did complete the requested requirements for the concession stand and it has now been completed. But Jones' concerns don't end there. He says property taxes are too high and until he begins bringing in revenue, he says he can’t afford those payments.
He said, "Present time there's no revenue and I can't afford a tax revenue of $30,000 a year and put money into it besides."
Ogdensburg’s city assessor, Bruce Green, says Jones is taking the right steps to get his taxes lowered. Green says now that Jones has filed a grievance, it is out of his hands. He says Jones will have to present his case in court and the decision will be up to a Supreme Court judge.
Jones says if things don’t change regarding his property taxes or an agreement can’t be made, he says not only will renovations stop but he’s considering giving the property away.
Jones said, "If we can't work out an agreement I have a couple people from not-for-profit organizations that I may just give it to them."
But through it all, there’s one thing both the city and Jones agree on. Ogdensburg needs new developments.
"I mean obviously this is a slow growth area so when development shows up and is willing to put some money in, which Gil Jones has done, and we applaud him for that," said Cosmo.
The city says they will continue to encourage all new developments Ogdensburg including Jones' project.
And one additional note, Jones also owns the movie theater in Ogdensburg. He says the business is continually losing money and says he'll offer to sell the theater to the city for one dollar. But city officials say this isn't an offer they can accept.