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Village Explores Options for Burned-Out Building

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CANTON - The village board is hoping to cut a deal on a burned-out building on Gouverneur Street.

The owner of the duplex at 3-5 Gouverneur St. owes St. Lawrence County roughly $15,000 in back property taxes,but doesn’t intend to pay, said Village Attorney Gerald J. Ducharme.

Instead, Harriet Stebbins Johnson is willing to transfer the property to the village, but that would make the village liable for the back taxes.

The village would also be responsible for tearing the building down and clean-ups costs, such as asbestos abatement and debris removal. Previous estimates place those costs between $30,000 and $50,000.

“She is prepared to deed the property to the village if we agree to accept it,” Mr. Ducharme told the village board Tuesday evening.

Unless the back taxes are paid by April, the county could foreclose on the building in April and sell the parcel to the highest bidder in its annual property auction.

However, Mr. Ducharme said the county may be willing to work out an agreement with the village regarding payment for back property taxes

“We could approach the county and see if an arrangement can be made for less than what’s owed on the property,” Mr. Ducharme said.

Trustee Daniel J. McDonnell said the property may be valuable for the village because it’s on the banks of the Grasse River and the village has been exploring waterfront revitalization projects, such as a whitewater rafting park.

“There has been a movement to improve access to the river. Maybe that property would be valuable to the village,” Mr. McDonnell said. “It’s not just a random piece of property. It’s right in the middle of town with river access.”

At one time a contractor was interested in purchasing the property from the village for a nominal sum, tearing the building down and eventually developing the lot which is in a commercial zone.

In other news, Village Superintendent Brien E. Hallahan reported that St. Lawrence University would like another pedestrian crosswalk added on Park Street.

In exchange, one crosswalk would likely be eliminated on University Avenue, he said.

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