Cleanup From March Fire Has New Path In Falconer

Falconer Mayor James Rensel speaks Wednesday in the village regarding last year's fire downtown as well as possible economic development. P-J photo by Katrina Fuller

FALCONER — The rubble cleanup process being moved forward and economic development in downtown Falconer were discussed Wednesday in the village.

At a public meeting of the Greater Falconer Area Economic Development Commission, Falconer Mayor James Rensel said work is being done and progress is being made regarding cleanup of a building destroyed by fire last March. Rensel said he also wants public input on what should be done in downtown Falconer in terms of development.

The gathering room at Falconer Volunteer Fire Department was packed with community members, business owners and public officials.

Village attorney Greg Peterson said some headway had been made when it comes to the debris left from the March 2017 fire that was later ruled arson.

“Everybody drives by the debris field out there on … West Main Street and wonders ‘What is going on?'” Peterson said. “I want to announce that there’s been an agreement in principle among the property owners, and an agreement, in principle, among some of the agencies for that to be cleaned up.”

Debris pictured last year in the village of Falconer at the site of a fire later ruled arson. P-J file photo by Jordan W. Patterson

He said the property owners will deed a portion of the land where there is debris to the village, “no strings attached.” Peterson said the property located at 39-43 W. Main St. that is currently condemned will be going through the town of Ellicott court system for enforcement.

“I’m also here to announce that through the wonderful work of Chautauqua County and specifically Chautauqua County Land Bank … they’ve committed to the financial extent they could financially do to become part of the funding to remove the debris, which is a major hurtle,” Peterson said.

Peterson said there are several opportunities to develop the space once the debris is removed.

“The process will be just that, a process,” Peterson said. “There is going to be community involvement all along the way to maybe reimagine the village of Falconer.”

Rensel said there will be a committee put together regarding economic development, including what should be done with that area where the fire occurred. Rensel said the site of a fire downtown last year has been cleared.

Leonard Skrill, upstate director for Capital Development for the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, spoke about what his program does and how it might be applicable to the situation in Falconer. Skrill said the program generally helps communities improve its areas such as vacant lots, vacant schools or brownfield areas.

“We take emotionally significant community detriments and make them into assets,” he said.

After the meeting, Rensel said he was “impressed” with the attendance at the meeting and was glad to see so much interest. He said he wants to maintain public input on what should be done in that space, as well as be “attentive and respectful” of the remaining businesses, including the Blue Fin Pet Shop and Servis Plumbing. Rensel said the two businesses have survived both fires and remain open for business.