The recent Schoharie County court decision overturning the Village of Cobleskill’s $20,000 fine against Newberry Square owner Henry Ioannou affirms what had long been apparent to anyone driving down Main Street over the past year: The village is completely powerless when it comes to getting this owner to step up and maintain this property.
That Judge Bartlett’s decision is legally questionable and probably ought to be appealed, is a moot point. I sincerely doubt that a different decision would have translated into a different outcome with regards to the plywood. This owner is a deadbeat and has obviously committed himself to not making any improvements to the property. And this is not an acceptable long-term solution for this community.
Last year there was talk of an investor buying the building and using Restore NY grant money to rehabilitate the upper levels. But that doesn’t seem to be an option. Apparently, there is new talk of another buyer, but don't hold your breath.
More than likely, the saga will go on, and the village will be stuck with a deadbeat owner who would rather pay a lawyer than a window installer. Which brings me to the question, if the village can’t find another buyer for the Newberry Square building, why don’t they just acquire the building themselves, through eminent domain, if necessary? For years, the village has been talking about moving its offices back downtown. Is there a more appropriate time and place for such a move?
As the private sector has failed to find a profitable use for the Newberry Square building, it falls on our local government to insure that this centerpiece of Cobleskill’s business district is returned to some productive use. The existence of village offices could insure a steady stream of customers into the building, making it’s several retail spaces, as well as those in neighboring buildings that much more attractive. The same could be said for rehabilitating the upper-level apartments, either as offices or residential units. As it stands now, Newberry Square's blight is pulling down the rest of that Main Street block and indeed Main Street itself.
Now that the courts have cut off the Village's legs with regards to remedying the current owner's mess, the Village has an obligation to look into more aggressive approaches. Moving Village Hall to Newberry Square could resolve many issues at once. At the very least, it's better than sitting around waiting for Henry Ioannou to call a window repairman.