At long last, EPA transfers 8 ‘Diaz homes’ to Holley

Photo by Kristina Gabalski: Village of Holley Development Corporation President Daniel Schiavone, Holley Mayor Brian Sorochty, Village Trustee Connie Nenni, and Orleans County Legislators Ken DeRoller and John DeFilipps gather on the porch of 37 S. Main St. in Holley Tuesday afternoon. They announced that the VHDC has now taken possession of the deeds of the eight “Diaz Homes” in the village, including this house at 37 S. Main.

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 3 May 2017 at 8:12 am

Village will put houses on market with EPA getting 90% of sale

HOLLEY – The effort by the Village of Holley Development Corporation to obtain ownership of the eight vacant “Diaz homes” in the village has finally proven successful.

VHDC President Daniel Schiavone and Holley Mayor Brian Sorochty Tuesday afternoon announced that after a more than two years of negotiations with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the VHDC has secured ownership of the homes and is in possession of the deeds.

“Our attorney is filing the deeds with the county to finalize the property transactions,” Schiavone said. “We are excited to be removing eight ‘zombie’ homes from the community and getting them revitalized in one way or another.”

The EPA purchased the homes following a release of chemicals from the former Diaz plant in January 2002.  Diaz declared bankruptcy and abandoned its manufacturing plant on Jackson Street.

Holley Village leaders made the announcement that the eight “Diaz Homes” are now in the possession of the VHDC on the porch of 37 S. Main St., which sits at the corner of Jackson St.

The eight houses are in the southwest quadrant of the village near the former Diaz site, which has been dismantled and removed by the EPA. The houses have been sitting empty and off the tax rolls for more than a decade.

The Village of Holley Development Corporation will sell the homes with 90 percent of the sale price going back to the EPA and 10 percent going to the VHDC. Schiavone had worked during negotiations to get a more favorable split for Holley.

“We were hoping to start a bankroll for other projects,” he said. As it stands, the VHDC may be able to accrue some funds from the sale of the homes for future projects.

“We may make a little bit to keep (the VHDC) alive and operating,” he said.

Members of the VHDC – all volunteers and members of the community – will meet May 8 to decide the best way to sell the homes. Schiavone said utilizing a local realtor and placing the homes on the market has been the only option studied so far.

“Those who purchase the homes must agree to do lead clean-up,” Schiavone explained. During negotiations, the EPA demanded that buyers agree to have lead abatement completed by an EPA certified contractor.

Schiavone emphasized lead is the only issue the EPA found in the homes. The EPA has cleared the homes of any other contamination.

“People may be suspicious that chemicals from Diaz are still present,” Schiavone said. “That was not confirmed by EPA testing.”

People who purchase the properties will be provided with full EPA reports on the homes.

Schiavone and Mayor Sorochty thanked Senator Chuck Schumer, Congressman Chris Collins, local, county and state representatives for all of their help during the negotiation process.

“Dan didn’t ask for any thanks,” Sorochty said of Schiavone. “He volunteered and other members of the (VHDC) volunteered. Their efforts are very appreciated.”

Sorochty discussed the long-term “ripple effects” of the Diaz 2002 chemical release, which resulted in lawsuits, families moving away, the eventual bankruptcy of Diaz, and the loss of a major employer in the village.

The demolition of the Diaz site is now complete, the mayor said, and he explained that onsite soil remediation will now begin. The village is currently seeking a BOA (Brownfield Opportunity Area) Step 2 Program Grant with the hopes of re-developing the Diaz site, Sorochty said.

Both Sorochty and Schiavone said Tuesday was an exciting day for the village, which will now be able to move forward with the houses.

Schiavone said he was village mayor in 2002 when the chemical release occurred. He said he watched as events unfolded over the years and is happy now to see some closure.

“On a personal level it’s nice to see,” he said. “We hope people will see the potential in the homes and make them beautiful again.”

Orleans County legislators Ken DeRoller and John DeFilipps attended the announcement.

“It’s fantastic,” DeRoller said of the transfer of the deeds. He commended the members of the VHDC for their work.

Sorochty said the VHDC, which was formed to obtain ownership of the eight properties and get them back on the tax rolls, paid off for the village. The village’s comprehensive plan and the BOA Step 1 pre-nomination study recommended the formation of an LDC as a way to address the issue of the empty homes.

The return of the properties to local ownership and “may be a stepping stone for bigger things,” Legislator DeFilipps said.

Schiavone noted that the village has faced some setbacks lately with the loss of a bank and grocery store in the business district, but the successful acquisition of the Diaz homes shows, “the future is not so bad.”

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