Vacant Arkville building faces wrecking ball
By Joe Moskowitz
An Arkville building that has been the target of complaints, scorn and legal action for many years is about to be demolished.
John and Carol Sanford, who own the dilapidated structure at the corner of Dry Brook Road and Route 28 told the News Monday that, “We have put a lot of work into it, but the town (Middletown) is coming down hard.”
Town of Middletown Code Enforcement Officer Pat Davis has been trying to get the structure fixed up or demolished for years. He has brought the Sanfords into Middletown Justice Court on numerous occasions, but in spite of his best efforts, the building still stands. The town’s code enforcement officer essentially works for the town planning board. John Sanford chaired the Middletown Planning Board for more than a dozen years.
This time, when Davis brought code violation charges against the Sanfords, the battle was fought in a different courtroom to escape a host of conflicts of interest.
Too many ties
The Sanfords’ lawyer is Gary Rosa who happens also to be a Town of Middletown Justice. He could not hear the case for obvious reasons. This left Middletown’s other justice, John Fairbairn III to hear the case. But Fairbairn worked on Rosa’s campaign when Rosa ran for county judge, so he couldn’t hear the case either. That resulted in a change of venue to Town of Colchester Justice Court in Downsville and was being heard by Justice Arthur C. Edel.
Davis said there are many code violations with the building, but the Town of Middletown chose to pursue just two: failure to provide protective coating, also known as paint, and it must be weather tight. There are no windows in the building.
The court, at the request of the Town of Middletown, adjourned the case to allow the Sanfords time to consider their options, which included bringing the structure into compliance before the next trial date scheduled for September 16 or tearing it down. And the easiest and perhaps only way to bring the building into compliance is to tear it down.
Sanford said that demolition will begin as soon as he gets estimates from a couple of more contractors. He went on to say that there is just too much that needs to be done in order to save the structure.
And while one can see the sun by just walking inside and looking through holes in the roof, Sanford found another way to look at the bright side of things. He said with the building gone, it will solve a safety problem. The eyesore was creating vision problems for drivers turning from Dry Brook onto Route 28. But with it gone, there will no longer be an obstructed view.
The building wasn’t always one of the area’s best-known and least-liked eyesores. It used to be a Victorian home across the road from a covered bridge that carried what is now Route 28 over Dry Brook. It was located at the base of the mountain that was home to the main building of the Pakatakan Country Club. But in the 1950s, all of that had changed.
There was still a hotel up the hill, but the covered bridge was gone. Nellie Bennett moved in and raised her son, Leonard, in the house. In the early 1960s, fire destroyed the adjacent Len-Ray Auto Body Shop, which was owned by racecar driver Leonard Shultis and mechanic Ray Oliver, that was located between the house and Pakatakan Road. The basement entrance still exists.
After Nellie Bennett passed away in the 1970s, there were no tenants and the structure soon started to deteriorate into its present condition.