posted on August 20, 2010 13:02
(This article has been updated from an earlier version)
Charles Brumsted , the owner of the former Bistro Cristina's restaurant in Batavia, wants to make one thing very clear: Chuck donating his Ellicott Street property, and code violations against Chuck's Ellicott Street property, are two separate matters.
Brumsted was due in court this morning to answer to several code violations against his Ellicott Street property; specifically, violations against the fire-ravaged remains of his restaurant. His attorney, Elizabeth Kraengel, entered a "not guilty" plea on Brumsted's behalf. As a matter of procedure, because there was no agreement in the case between the city and the property owner, Judge Robert Balbick set the matter down for a trial on September 17th. Brumsted would be required to appear in City Court on that date; he currently resides in Boynton Beach, Florida.
If Brumsted donates the property to another party before September 17th, he will no longer be liable for the code violations. Also, if Brumsted brings his property into compliance with city code before then, the matter will be considered resolved, and there will likely be no trial.
Outside the courtroom today, attorney Kraengel said that Brumsted does not plan to take action to bring the property into compliance.
"Ultimately, if the potential 'donee' is going to be altering the property at all, if it's going to be (demolished)," said Kraengel said, "it wouldn't really make sense to spend the resources at this time, to cure these violations."
Just over an hour after his case was in court, Brumsted - who announced on Monday that he will donate his property to a local non-profit organization - personally called WBTA and announced that he has set a deadline for the non-profits to contact him about acquring the property.
"I am overwhelmed with the response and interest of these non-profit organizations interested in the property of the former Cristina's restaurant," said Brumsted just before noon, by phone from Florida. "We must set a deadline...for Thursday, August 26th at 3'oclock p.m."
While the court's setting down a date for trial, and Brumsted's setting down a deadline, were chronologically close - Brumsted says that's purely coincidental.
"The deadline that was set (by Brumsted) for Thursday, August 26th," says Brumsted, "was solely...to the effect that we were overwhelmed with the amount of response, and the non-for-profit organizations that have come forth for the interest in Cristina's restaurant."
Brumsted says he's receiving 4 or 5 calls each day from interested parties; he says it's only fair to those organizations that called first, for him to set a deadline and make a decision soon, so that they can plan accordingly.
As far as the code violations against the site of the former Cristina's, Brumsted noted several points of contention. He questions how a building that was partially destroyed by fire can be governed by city code; respective to a particular violation that cites electrical wires exposed to the elements, Brumsted says no electric (or gas, or water) has been operational at the building since the devastating 2008 fire, and that specific code should not apply.
Court documents obtained by WBTA News list three separate dates when city code enforcement officers attempted to contact Brumsted to remedy the violations against his property, and allegedly received no response, nor observed any improvements to the property.
Brumsted says that's simply not true.
"This fire happened in July '08; we've been working very closely with the City of Batavia, and between (Code Enforcement Officers) Mike Smith and Doug Randall," says Brumsted. "I've had a few meetings with them since then."
Relative to his donating the property, Brumsted points out that he could have taken other routes with his damaged restaurant.
"I always had a choice in this matter," he says. "At the time of the fire...I had a choice to completely demolish the property at the site and just hold on and own a vacant piece of land.
"At the time, it made much sense to keep the masonry, non-combustible building up, and whether I may decide to reconstruct the restaurant as it was. As we sent it out to bid, the numbers came in - and were astronomical."
So, rebuilding was not a viable option. Now Brumsted had a piece of property with a non-combustible masonry building sitting on it. He says he could have re-developed the land - or donated it to a non-profit organization, which he now plans to do.
"With all the support of the community, it makes much sense to donate this to a non-for-profit organization," he says, "to take their resources and rehabilitate that building, and keep it as it is - a main focal point on Ellicott Street."
Brumsted points out that if he had demolished the property, city residents would have been forced to look at a vacated lot. Also, Central Avenue houses backing up to the property would have been exposed to Main Street - an ugly idea, in his mind.
As long as he owns the property, "I always have a choice," Chuck notes. "I could hold an auction and pocket the money myself, but I chose not to." Brumsted notes he could knock it down tomorrow if he liked, as the property owner - but instead, he'll take what he sees as the more noble route, and donate it.
"This is contribution from myself, in behalf of the memory of my grandmother," he says, "to keep the property intact."
Brumsted can be contacted by cell phone at (585) 356-0927, or by e-mail at email@example.com