The closed Holly Drive Motel will likely stay that way after Fulton Common Councilors Tuesday cleared up a conflict by saying the property is zoned single-family residential.
The designation gave a victory to neighbors but appeared to damage a chance for owner Vinod Mariwalla to sell the rundown 22-unit facility to a veteran landlord who said she wanted to build a 12-unit senior housing complex at the 901 Holly Dr. address. Mariwalla also operate the La Siesta motel in Oswego, where he said he lives.
According to county property tax records and Mariwalla’s statements at Tuesday’s public hearing, he bought the long-closed motel for $48,000 in September, 2011 at an auction. He said that he has put more than $70,000 into the project since then, when payment of back taxes, payment of current taxes and some maintenance is figured in.
The property is assessed at $85,714. Mariwalla said he is up to date on his tax payments.
Mariwalla said he believed the property was zoned R-3 when he bought it. R-3 is a residential zoning designation that allows for mixed uses, such as multi-unit apartments. His belief was based on the representation made to him when he bought the property, and on a map in the code enforcement office that shows at least part of the property is in an R-3 zone.
But Mayor Ron Woodward said the city’s and county’s tax records show the property is zoned R-1, which allows only single-family homes. He said the deputy city clerk went through decades of records to try to find any notation of a change in zoning for the land. “There’s nothing in the records that says R-3,” he said. “We can find no proof it was ever rezoned.”
Residents of the neighborhood lined up to urge the city not to allow the R-3 zoning.
Dave Halstead of S. 11th St. said that police visit the building frequently and “we just don’t need that anymore.”
Mary Delong of Utica St. said she has been part of the neighborhood for 45 years and can see the motel from her front windows. “Ever since that’s been closed, we don’t have a stealing problem in our neighborhood anymore,” she said. “We’d like to keep it just the way it is — a nice neighborhood where everybody gets along and nobody steals nothing.”
Mariwalla said he was prepared to sell the property at half its assessed value to Cindy Korthas, who said she owns and operates 23 rental properties in the eastern half of the county. Mariwalla’s lawyer showed Councilors a sketch of Korthas’s planned 12-unit efficiency apartment complex for seniors.
She said her units are all well-maintained and up to code, and that she doesn’t put up with tenants who use drugs or cause trouble. “I don’t put up with the bullcrap,” she said.
To the neighbors who opposed the zone change, she said, “If anybody thinks they want the place to be torn down, (Mariwalla) is by all means willing to sell it.”
Councilors agreed with Woodward’s assessment that there was no proof that the land was ever rezoned to R-3. They voted 6-0 to deny the zone change. Mariwalla’s lawyer hinted that Mariwalla might sue to get a judge to sort out the conflict between the code enforcement map and the tax records.