‘No Guarantees’ For Fate of Church, Member Says

FULTON, NY – With the first serious buyer on the line, Jan Mileskey said he is hopeful that business plans for the former First Congregational United Church of Christ property will more forward.

Faced with considerable objections from the Fulton community, the Fulton Common Council tabled a zone change request Tuesday that is required as part of those plans. The council expects to resume its discussion when the council is back to full board at its next meeting Aug. 19.

Family Video Store is working to purchase the church, the parsonage and two houses to the north of the church along West First Street. The buildings would be taken down and replaced with a new Family Video Outlet Store. To do that, zoning along a stretch of West First Street from Broadway to Voorhees Street would need to be changed from residential zoning to C-2 commercial. The church property is already zoned commercial.

The project was referred earlier this summer to the Fulton Planning Commission, which unanimously agreed to allow the zoning change. Residents who attended Tuesday’s meeting debated the change, however, and urged the council to reconsider allowing a change that would ultimately result in demolition of the church.

Mileskey said that the church was six months shy of celebrating its 125th anniversary when it closed. Though a difficult decision, Mileskey said that closing became the only option.

Mileskey, a fifth generation member, said that the church had just more than a dozen active members when the decision was made to close in late 2006.

“When we took the final vote to close, 15 people showed up,” he said. “We didn’t take this lightly but we couldn’t stay in the building.”

“When you only have 14 people attend church, it gets hard to meet your commitments,” he said.

Mileskey noted that he has “no idea” what will happen next if the pending sale falls through.

“It was on the market for 18 months,” he said.

Mileskey pointed out that while 15 to 20 people looked at the church property in that time, Family Video Store was the only serious offer that was received.

“There were no other serious buyers,” he said. “The things that created the need for us to close are the same things that make it hard to sell.”

Meantime, Mileskey noted that the building is costing between $12,000 to $15,000 each year to stand vacant.

“We are paying about $6,000 in just electric; $5,000 in insurance,” he said.

“It is such a big building,” Mileskey added. “We have to keep the heat on for the organ. It still works and we don’t want to lose it by turning the heat off.”

Some at the meeting debated that efforts should be made to get the church on the historical site registry. Mileskey said that because of changes that were made through the years, two efforts to do that were rejected by the state.

“The steeple was torn down,” he said. “It is not original.” Another change, he said, is the rose window that had to be replaced when it blew in during a wind storm.

A dispute over a worker identification number has had the corporation involved in a court dispute since the church closed. With that resolved, Mileskey said the corporation is in the process of being dissolved. Once that happens, Mileskey said that the building will be turned over to the New York state United Church of Christ.

“They would have gotten the proceeds from the sale,” he said.

Even if the sale to Family Video Store falls through, Mileskey stressed that there are no guarantees that the church will be maintained as part of the Fulton community.

“The conference is going to get the building,” Mileskey said. “We are dissolving the corporation. I don’t know how long the conference will put money into it.”

Items from inside the church that are being sold, he said, are slated to benefit Operation Southern Comfort, which helps rebuild homes for families that lost everything in New Orleans.

As for Family Video, if the business plans for the church property fall through, there are several other irons in the fire.

Family Video Store has 565 stores from Texas to New York. The next closest to Fulton is located in Liverpool, according to businessman Jason Yuhasz.

“We will continue to look in Fulton,” Yuhasz said.

Phil Walker, who manages the real estate end of the business planning for the company, said that zone changes and special use permits are common necessities in the company’s efforts to grow.

“We have been as cooperative as possible with the city in our discussions for this project,” said Walker, who noted that he was disappointed to see the potential change in direction. “We could continue to look in Fulton but we have more successful business challenges ahead of us.”

2 Comments

  1. I find it sad that the church could not go on. I have some fond memories in that church from children being baptized to a few of my cousins weddings. It ashame when we lose important landmarks in the city. But I support the sale of the church. The city has lost so many jobs and sales tax revenue that the sale to a business would be a good thing. If the same people protesting the sale had gone to the church it still be open. so the choice is another empty building in the city or a business that will pay taxes and bring in jobs. I would think that is an obvious choice

  2. I am disappointed that more information about the company is not being presented. Are they a responsible community and business member? We don’t know. I have looked at the company website and they are proposing building in a number of communities. There is something else to consider and that is dollars and sense. Does it make sense for a big beautiful building to sit idle and cost money to heat and keep the lights and power on. While I do understand that this building was a marvel for its time and is a wonderful historic site, the City of Fulton as a whole, our Aldermen and Mayor need to see that if we do not become open to development these companies will go elsewhere. A developer is proposing a strip mall in Granby near Wal-mart are we going to say no to tax dollars and then allow them to go to Granby and then continue to raise our property taxes to make up for the loss of those tax dollars. Here is a real opportunity to take back some of those dollars. This company is not just a video store rental they are also a large retailer that can still go head to head with the big guys like Wal-mart, Target, K-mart and Best Buy. We need to get both sides and examine all the pluses and minuses. And I think the common council acted very responsibly in tabling this until a later date but hopefully all the information can be examined before we make a hasty decision.

    Respectfully David Carvey

Comments are closed.