M-139 eyesore to be demolished

Workers have begun clearing out the interior of the shuttered Purple Onion restaurant building along M-139 in Sodus Township in anticipation for its demolition. The site was almost temporarily annexed by Benton Township. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

Workers have begun clearing out the interior of the shuttered Purple Onion restaurant building along M-139 in Sodus Township in anticipation for its demolition. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

SODUS — A vacant building along the M-139 corridor where Sodus Township meets the Benton Township business district is expected to be razed by mid-June.

The building at 2699 M-139, which last housed a restaurant known as The Purple Onion, is going through a lengthy process to be torn down.

Sodus Township Supervisor David Johnson said they were originally in negotiations more than a year ago with Benton Township to clean up the M-139 portion near the I-94 interchange.

Benton Township officials approached Johnson with a proposition to use a section 425 agreement. The agreement is considered a “temporary annexation.”

Under the agreement, Benton Township would have annexed the parcels of land for 10 years, with a potential 10-year extension. If the restaurant had been reconfigured to fall within Benton Township for at least the next 10 years, the parcels of land would have been bound to stricter ordinances, additional building codes and higher property taxes. Johnson said if the restaurant belonged to another jurisdiction, it could have been condemned.

“We started negotiating that because they (Benton Township officials) wanted to get that corridor cleaned up,” Johnson said. “It’s a long process, but they have more resources. No owner would want us to turn it over because they would be subject to more stringent ordinances.”

Benton Township Comptroller Kelli Nelson said the township received several complaints about the property. Nelson said the jurisdictional boundaries aren’t clear, and a lot of residents thought it was a part of the township.

“The agreement would have allowed us to use our resources to get the property cleaned up a bit,” Nelson said. “The townships are always looking for an opportunity to work together and clean up the corridor. It’s a highly visible area. It’s the first thing people see when they get off the highway.

“However, the legal agreement was deemed unnecessary.”

Sodus Township trustees tabled the agreement until township officials had a chance to speak with the owner.

After an in-depth inspection by building officials, Johnson met with the owner – Rajesh Bhardwaj, CEO of Cosmo Management Group Inc. – to explain what they found and how the agreement was a possible solution.

“He said he would be compliant and asked what the first step would be,” Johnson said. “I told him if he got it demolished by June 14, then we wouldn’t go through with the agreement. On April 6, they pulled a demo permit and have been clearing out the interior since then.”

Bhardwaj said his company is now in the planning stages of trying to secure a cafeteria or fast-food chain to replace the vacant restaurant.

Johnson said once the inside is gutted, the entire structure will be coming down.

“Sodus Township has never done (the agreement) before,” Johnson said. “This was a brand new, out-of-the-box idea. The building was past being rehabbed – it had to be demoed. The owner has been very cooperative. Everything we have wanted to be in compliant with he has done.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on May 3, 2016)

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