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Frontier House: Repair plan expected within next 30 days

by jmaloni
Sat, Apr 14th 2018 07:00 am
The Frontier House on Center Street in Lewiston.
The Frontier House on Center Street in Lewiston.
By Joshua Maloni
Managing Editor
A plan to initiate repairs at the historic Frontier House is expected within the next 30 days.
Wednesday night in Town of Lewiston Justice Court, Joseph Makowski told the Hon. Justice Thomas Sheeran, "We have engaged the E.I. Team, which is an architectural/engineering firm, to take a look at the needed work necessary to bring the Frontier House into code compliance."
This statement followed a 20-minute meeting Makowski had in chambers with Sheeran and Village of Lewiston counsel Joseph Leone. The Buffalo attorney represents Richard and Judith Hastings, who are the shareholders of Hastings Lewiston - the corporation that owns the nearly 200-year-old Frontier House.
"I have been provided with an analysis by the E.I. Team with respect to the required repairs, and the cost of those repairs. Because of the uniqueness of this property, different cost estimates were given to me that I need to sit down with the owner of E.I. Team and my clients (who were out of town) to go through it with them," Makowski said. "And then my thought process was to sit down with the building department and Mr. Leone to put some sort of schedule together as to what the building department deems to be urgent."
Makowski said his clients could then determine "what do we have to do now, and what might be able to come back. We want to coordinate that."
Building Inspector Ken Candella provided the Hastings family with a list of exterior building code violations in the fall of 2016. One year later, the municipality reviewed the condition of the building and found it lacking. As fall turned into winter, the Historic Preservation Commission suggested legal action begin. Zoning Officer Edward DeVantier initiated court proceedings earlier this year.
In court this week, Makowski said, "In the next 30 days, we'll have a plan that should make sense."
"So, the expectation is that there will be some sort of engineering or architectural imperative that will be able to be passed on to the village sometime within the next 30 days?" Sheeran asked.
"Yes," Makowski affirmed. "I've got preliminary analysis from the E.I. Team that I need to share with my clients, and then sit down with the E.I. Team at their office. And then once my clients have signed off on it, I'll get it to Mr. Leone. But we're looking for a 30-day continuance to get that accomplished."
Sheeran granted the request. He said, "As we have discussed both in chambers and in a previous court appearance, there is a mandate for us to move forward. I think the village wants this option exercised as soon as possible. I think ... Mr. Hastings would like to have this whole process move forward. I think everybody's in the same place. It's simply a question now of making sure that we get these T's crossed and I's dotted."
Leone said, "My marching orders are to go forward and to make sure that the building is in compliance. Hopefully this architectural/engineering report will be fruitful in making that happen."
Sheeran asked, "And the village is prepared to move forward, legally, if we don't see any movement?"
"Absolutely," Leone said.
"And Mr. Makowski and his clients are aware of that?" Sheeran asked.
"Yes," Makowski said. "I've made them aware of it."
Leone said the village is looking for a resolution or a prosecution, "and the fact that the building inspector and code enforcement officer are here present and were here present the last time is evidence of that."
Makowski said, "We're looking for the resolution part."
"As is, I think, the village, represented by Mr. Leone; as is the public; and as is the court," Sheeran said. "I think we all are looking for a resolution that everyone can feel is appropriate and, in some fashion, timely."
Following the hearing, Makowski said, "We've retained an architectural/engineering firm to look at the alleged code violations, and then take a look at how much money it's going to take to bring the building into code compliance. What the work will be, and then what the cost will be, and timeline to do it."
As to whether the Frontier House remains for sale, Makowski said, "Not ruling anything in; not ruling anything out."
He acknowledged his clients have been "living with the problem a long time, and I think they're looking to bring it to some form of resolution, whether it's a repair option and then seeing what they can do to develop the Frontier House, or sell it. But right now, we've got to deal with the reality of this code enforcement proceeding. That's what's got our attention."
Makowski said he would speak with the E.I. Team to discuss how repairs could be made, and whether such action could be taken by the Buffalo firm or by an outside contractor.
The E.I. Team is familiar with the Frontier House, having partnered with Hastings Lewiston on a proposed restoration/condominium development project in 2011. Though multiple presentations were made to village officials, this proposal was rescinded.
Leone said he's optimistic the E.I. Team will concur with the village's building assessment. He said he would prefer to receive the architectural/engineering report prior to the next court appearance.
"I'm hopeful that their engineer or architect or combination comes back and confirms that whatever we said was accurate. And my hope is that they agree that our assessment is accurate and that they have the wherewithal and the ability to bring it back to code," Leone said.
He explained the village is ready for trial, and to prosecute to the full extent of the law, but, "What we really want is the building to be the way that it's supposed to be. ... If they come up with a plan to do that, great. If they come up with an alternative plan, great."
Leone noted fines don't "get the building to the place that it ought to be, which is really, I think, what the board wants and, frankly, I think what most people in Lewiston want."
The Frontier House on Center Street - the "crown jewel" of Lewiston, as residents often call it - has been closed to the public since December 2004.

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