The Sun agrees on Foit’s

The Sun’s editorial this week echoes my viewpoint from a month ago on the Foit’s property.

Hamburg’s known as the town that friendship built and most folks outside of the town say Hamburg definitely is a “pro-business” community.

But when it comes to an issue involving a Hamburg business owner and a prime piece of property that overlooks Lake Erie, it seems to us that Hamburg is turning its back on someone who may now pack up and move to the City of Buffalo.

A back-and-forth battle between town officials and local businessman Bill Barrett over the former Foit’s restaurant property on Route 5 has found Barrett feeling confused and disappointed that his plan to convert the dilapidated structure and adjacent property into new offices for his consulting company, as well as a home for his wife’s planned yoga studio, is not being well received by town officials.

While we understand the town’s point of view on wanting to tear down the building and create a small scenic overlook park, we disagree with that thought process and believe Barrett should be allowed to purchase the eyesore, sink some significant money into it and attempt to generate some revenue, all the while paying taxes on the property.

We feel strongly that the town should let Barrett, a very successful and forward thinking entrepreneur, give it a go and try and make some money off of something that has sat vacant for six years, before it is completely taken off of the tax rolls.

While the overlook would be a nice feature that the town could market and use to bring visitors to Hamburg, it essentially would be a non-revenue generating attraction. Anyone can view Lake Erie farther down the road at the Hamburg Town Beach, at the Lake Erie Seaway Trail Visitors Center, or by simply visiting one of the successful restaurants lucky enough to sit on the lakefront.

If the town moves forward on the acquisition of the Foit’s property — something they’ve been working on for about five years now — they are taking a big risk.

We feel strongly that locking up one of the few remaining pieces of waterfront land available in Hamburg means once that property is officially taken off of the market, the chances of it ever returning to the town tax rolls are slim-to-none.

Barrett’s proposal calls for making the building useful again, meaning it could potentially generate thousands of dollars in taxes. He deserves the benefit of the doubt and should be allowed to move forward with his project, provided the town steps away from their plans to develop the overlook.

Even if Barrett — who already operates three separate business ventures, not including his wife’s yoga studio proposal — somehow fails, the town would most likely be left with a partially, if not fully, renovated building that would be a drastic improvement to what is sitting there right now.

That would then help in marketing the property to another business, perhaps even a restaurant that would try and follow the success of nearby lakefront eateries such as Hoak’s On The Lake, Root Five, Rodney’s and McKenzie’s.

The worst part of all this is Barrett is beyond just being confused and disappointed in the town’s approach to his proposal — he’s so frustrated he’s considering moving his offices to downtown Buffalo. Town officials say they understand why Barrett is so dejected since his vision for that property is being opposed by the folks who make the difficult decisions at Hamburg Town Hall.

Even the Hamburg Shoreline Revitalization Committee, an advisory group made up of local residents, prefers the overlook project to Barrett’s plans.

But do we want to see a dozen employees leave Hamburg for Buffalo? The answer to that question should be obvious if Hamburg is indeed a “pro-business” community.

It’s time for the real estate squabble to stop and for the town to pull out and allow Barrett to establish his new headquarters here in Hamburg.

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  1. I thought the reason for a denial would have been traffic safety (egress from Foits was always a risky task). However, since the alternate proposal (an overlook park) would also have people entering / exiting onto / across Rt 5, the safety issue might be moot. It could be that the cliff isn’t quite sound. You may not remember, but Pemberton Real Estate used to be located right between Foits and Hoaks on Rt 5, it is gone now – washed away – it is now, effectively, an “overlook park” without parking. I always thought it was ironic that it was a Real Estate business that washed away.

    Perhaps the Foits site is no longer a suitable for building (size, orientation, zoning, safety) and no longer safely “buildable” with an eroding cliff. Also, when you re-build, you generally have to play by the new ordinances that are in place.

  2. If that were the case, I’m sure those points would have made very clear by the town board, and there would be no real dispute. This smells more like politicians having found themselves a pet project and don’t want to give it up, even when there’s a better proposal.

  3. Derek, see today’s (Thursday, December 21st) edition of “The Sun” for two letters to the editor submitted regarding the Foit’s property issue.

    I’m not sure if both letter writers understood what I was trying to say in my editorial but at least we’ve got a dialogue going on this situation online, in the newspaper and hopefully within the walls of Hamburg Town Hall.

    See Page 6 for both letters.

    Good day…

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