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Sackets Harbor considers moratorium on clearing Madison Barracks theatre, mess hall buildings

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SACKETS HARBOR — Madison Barracks developer Michael A. Lawler repeated his threat of legal action after the village Board of Trustees on Tuesday night considered a moratorium of all demolition work in the village’s historic district in order to stop the demolition of the barracks’ theater and mess hall buildings.

The board decided against approving a moratorium, but instead unanimously gave Mayor F. Eric Constance the authority to start creating the moratorium depending on how the village Planning Board acts at its July 17 meeting.

“All this does is give us time,” Mr. Constance said.

The two buildings, created in the late 1800s, have sat empty on Pike Road for more than 60 years. Both buildings need millions of dollars in repairs before they could be refurbished, according to an engineer hired by Mr. Lawler.

Reached by phone after the meeting, Mr. Lawler, who did not attend the meeting, said his demolition application was already filed to the village and met multiple requirements to proceed.

“If they want to pull that kind of crap, I can file an Article 78 and we can go to court,” Mr. Lawler said. “That sneaky political crap doesn’t work with me.”

The timetable considered by the board was from six months to a year. Mr. Constance said the legal justification for such a delay was so the village could review its new zoning laws, which are nearly finished.

“We’ll walk softly and see where this leads us,” he said, immediately after the motion passed.

Several board members expressed concern if the board waited until its August meeting to get its response in motion, it would be too late to react if the Planning Board approved the demolition application.

“We have to be in a position to try and save these buildings,” said Trustee Peter R. Daly.

In the week before the Planning Board’s next meeting, Mr. Lawler said he was willing to negotiate a delay to the demolition, and that he could be convinced to hold off on clearing the buildings for two years if the village works with him.

“It’s not going to be a one way street,” he said.

However, if the village tries a moratorium, the developer said, “I’m taking them to court and I’m smashing anything I want to take down. Period.”

He blamed his issues working with the village on the “petty jealousy and ignorance” of its residents.

“I don’t give a goddamn what anybody in the village likes or dislikes,” Mr. Lawler said.

Acknowledging the high emotions in the village about the buildings, Planning Board Chairman Gary M. Gibson said after the meeting that the potential moratorium would not affect the board’s deliberations.

“The Planning Board must base its decision on the facts, whatever they may be,” he said.

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