Cheektowaga council absolves $11k bill attached to Wellworth Place parcel

Chronicle file photo of 155 Wellworth Place.
Chronicle file photo of 155 Wellworth Place.

CHEEKTOWAGA – The Cheektowaga Town Council recently waived clean-up costs associated with a vacant parcel of land on Wellworth Place.

The town approved the demolition of 155 Wellworth Place back in 2009 with Erie County footing the bill for the demolition work.  The parcel has sat vacant for nearly ten years and the responsibility for mowing and removing dead trees from the parcel fell to the town.

That work, including administrative fees, comes to $11,875. Typically, past taxes, the demolition work, and any “clean-up” work are associated with the deed by way of a lien.

A lawyer for Erie County contacted the town saying the property was sold at the county’s foreclosure auction on September 26, 2018, for the price of $8,500, but the purchaser cannot afford to assume responsibility for the additional $11,875 in clean-up costs.

The town council voted last Tuesday to absolve the new owner of that bill.

Town resident Dave Uzar objected to the council’s action during a public comment period before a vote was taken.

“If we continue to do this – waiving these people’s costs – we’re the ones who are going to be in debt.  I know [they’re] going to reuse the property and bring it back on the tax roles, but the problem is, what are they going to use the property for if they can’t afford the $11,000,” Mr. Uzar said.

The property has $133,000 in back taxes attached to the parcel, but the county says it was going to wipe the debt clean.  The town of Cheektowaga was already paid that tax money because the county must make the town whole if the property owner fails to pay the tax bill.

Mr. Uzar is afraid the town is setting a precedent.

“People are going to wait for the town to do the site clean-up and then they’ll come in and purchase the property at $3,000 less,” he said.  “We’re getting more and more of these properties, and it’s going to happen, again, and again, and again.  It’s happened before where we just relinquished the fees and sell them the property.”

“What choice do we have?” Supervisor Diane Benczkowski asked Cheektowaga Chronicle after the meeting.  “Do we leave it there vacant or do we want a homeowner to come in and take care of it?”

Ms. Benczkowski disagrees that the town council’s action would set a precedent.

“I don’t see why we would wait on that for just $11,000.  We have to decide these issues and set our priorities on a case-by-case basis, but that’s not setting a precedent at all,” she said.

Cheektowaga Chronicle was not privileged to the new owner’s name and could not reach out to ask what their intentions were for the vacant parcel.

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