Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

March 5, 2013

Former Ava's Place to be sold, though previous owner will appeal.

By Michael Regan
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NORTH TONAWANDA — A judge has upheld his initial decision to allow North Tonawanda to keep and sell a long-standing bar on Webster Street .

Ava’s Place was placed under the city’s control in January, after its owners failed to pay outstanding and delinquent taxes on time. Randy Siford, who owned the establishment with his mother said they will appeal the decision made by Niagara County State Supreme Court Judge Frank Caruso, who refused a motion to set aside an order to grant the city title.  

The city plans to sell the property to the owner of another Webster Street business, Jay Soemann, who was under contract to purchase the property from Siford and his mother for $140,000. City attorney Shawn Nickerson said the municipality still plans to sell it to Soemann, though at a lesser price of $95,000. It’s assessed value is $75,000, Nickerson said.  

The common council has already authorized Mayor Rob Ortt to proceed with the sale after Siford and his attorney successfully pulled off a court-ordered stay on the property until they met before Caruso on Thursday. 

Siford, who Nickerson said hadn’t paid taxes since 2005, owed the city, county and school district approximately $50,000 including interest and penalties, but made a partial payment of $25,000 in November. Siford said he had the money to resolve the debt on Jan. 31, when the city instead refused the payment and moved toward foreclosure. 

“He tried to come in with the money,” Nickerson said. “First of all the last date to redeem on the property was in August and he never paid. I met with Scott Kiedrowski, the city clerk-treasurer, and the mayor, and we made a collective decision that it was in the best interest of the city to refuse. If he was not able to sell it we’d have a vacant bar for maybe months or years to come.”

Siford, however, said he would have been able to pay off his back taxes and have a nest egg for he and his mother if the initial deal went through with Soemann, but will instead file an appeal in Rochester, where he believes he would get a more equitable ruling. 

“It’s going to take the a lot of the political influence out of it,” Siford said. “When we weren’t paying our taxes we knew this day could come, but my mother was in the hospital with cancer.” 

Siford did not know when a appeal would be filed, while Nickerson said he would request that any appeal taking place would proceed with the backing of a $95,000 bond sponsored by Siford. 

Soemann told the Tonawanda News in January that he plans to gut the building for commercial space that fits with the growing boutique-style business in the downtown corridor and that he planned to convert an upstairs apartment into an upscale living space. 

“Now we have a buyer who has a plan,” Nickerson said.

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.