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 TuesdayÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢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.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhen we took the final vote to close, 15 people showed up,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t take this lightly but we couldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t stay in the building.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhen you only have 14 people attend church, it gets hard to meet your commitments,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said.
Mileskey noted that he has ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œno ideaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â what will happen next if the pending sale falls through.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt was on the market for 18 months,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â 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.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThere were no other serious buyers,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe things that created the need for us to close are the same things that make it hard to sell.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Meantime, Mileskey noted that the building is costing between $12,000 to $15,000 each year to stand vacant.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe are paying about $6,000 in just electric; $5,000 in insurance,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt is such a big building,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Mileskey added. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe have to keep the heat on for the organ. It still works and we donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t want to lose it by turning the heat off.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
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.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe steeple was torn down,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt is not original.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â 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.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThey would have gotten the proceeds from the sale,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â 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.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe conference is going to get the building,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Mileskey said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe are dissolving the corporation. I donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t know how long the conference will put money into it.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
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.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe will continue to look in Fulton,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â 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 companyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s efforts to grow.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe have been as cooperative as possible with the city in our discussions for this project,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â said Walker, who noted that he was disappointed to see the potential change in direction. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe could continue to look in Fulton but we have more successful business challenges ahead of us.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â