A Phoenix woman says she faces financial ruin because the Town of Schroeppel improperly issued a demolition permit.
Since April of last year, a huge pile of rubble has been sitting on a plot of land on Route 57 just south of the Village of Phoenix. It's what's left of the Phoenix Bowl Inn.
Its owner, Brenda Riano, says it's the result of a bureaucratic mistake which she says will cost her more than $350,000 to correct. Chocking back tears, Riano had this message to others who may feel a demolition permit is all they need, "Learn from what happened to me. Take my advise, your project could end up costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars and in my case, your home."
Riano's story goes back to the spring of last year. After 35 years as the owner of the Phoenix Bowl Inn, she decided she could no longer afford the building improvements needed to keep going. "I could not get the financial assistance so I was forced to close," she told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon.
Riano hired a contractor to demolish the building in exchange for the scrap metal. She went to the Town of Schroeppel and applied for a demolition permit. Riano says the clerk at the Codes office filled out the application for her to sign and attached the contract with the demolition company. Riano says she thought the process was too simple and claims she asked the clerk three times if "there's nothing else to do. She said yes, I'm positive."
Shortly thereafter, Riano says Schroeppel Codes Enforcement Officer, Robert Dalton, signed and issued her a demolition permit. After crews had torn down most of the building, Riano says the town slapped her with a stop work order. She says agents from the EPA, New York Department of Environmental Conservation, and the State Labor Department became involved.
Riano was told she violated a law that requires an asbestos survey before demolition can begin. "I didn't know what to think. I thought I had done everything right. I made it very clear I didn't want to violate any codes or laws," Riano told Kenyon.
More than a year later, the pile of rubble remains untouched. Since there was no asbestos survey, the Department of Labor has declared it a contaminated site, even though Brenda says there's no proof there was any asbestos in the building to begin with.
Riano says the town had an obligation to inform her of the need to pay for an asbestos survey before it approved the demolition permit.
Paul Casler who was the Schroeppel Town Supervisor at the time says Riano's assertion that she was not informed is "not true." He says the notice of the need for such a survey is, "right on the forms. She got the whole package before she began demolition."
Riano says that conflicts with a letter which the town's attorney sent to Casler. The letter says the "Town of Schroeppel has no liability." but it acknowledges the "Code Enforcement Officer's failure to advise her that an asbestos survey should have been conducted." Former Supervisor Casler also said, "We can issue a demolition permit but the property owner is responsible for the asbestos survey."
Riano still maintains that Schroeppel is responsible for the situation she finds herself in.
"Just because they give you verbal permission, and give you a permit, it doesn't mean it's legal to do so," Riano says.
Riano says she has contacted a lawyer but is not interested in suing the town. She says she hopes to bring the matter before a judge who will order the town to clean up the site.
The Current Town Supervisor Patrick Nugent says he is looking into what happened at the Bowl Inn site. He says the town "is not obligated to inform and people should read the application and contact their lawyer." Nevertheless, Nugent says the town is looking into ways to help.