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Thursday, 05 January 2017 17:22

Despite Two Changes of Owners, Burned Auto Shop in NY Remains Untouched

Written by Don Lehman, The Post Star

Burned Shop 2 Owners

The remnants of Ridge Road Car Care on Ridge Road in Queensbury, as seen last year.
Photo credit: The Post Star


The Ridge Road property that includes the charred remnants of an auto body shop has been sold for the second time in two months, and the new owner has met with town officials in recent weeks to discuss a cleanup of the site.

Developer and electrical contractor Joseph Gross bought 894 Ridge Road and a vacant lot next to it at the Warren County tax foreclosure auction. The property was home to Ridge Road Car Care until the business was destroyed by fire on July 31, 2013.


But within weeks of buying it, Gross had sold the property to a Hudson Falls-based limited liability company listed to a Glens Falls man. That man, Arthur T. Belden, did not respond to email requests for comment, and no listed phone number could be found for him. He was listed as general manager at French Mountain Commons in Queensbury, but no one answered the phone at the shopping center on January 3.


Queensbury Supervisor John Strough said he met with Belden last month, and Belden indicated he planned to have the property cleaned up. He asked for and was given copies of reports the town had done in recent years as the question of whether it would require an asbestos cleanup was debated.


"He's been in a couple of times. It sounds like he wanted to get it cleaned up as soon as possible," Strough said.


Strough said Belden indicated he may put apartment buildings on the site, although his plans initially were to keep it vacant. The property is zoned "medium" residential, and lost its commercial designation when the property was no longer used for commercial activity for three years after the fire.


As of last week, no demolition permit has been sought through the town.


The fire that destroyed the business was deemed suspicious, but no one was ever charged. Owner Andrew Ratto walked away from the property after the state Department of Labor required that a cleanup for the carcinogen asbestos was required, based on a contractor's opinion that asbestos was present in the building.


As a result, no one wanted to touch the property out of fear of being responsible for a cleanup that could cost $100,000 or more, despite court orders to clean it up that came after the town of Queensbury sued Ratto.


A subsequent survey sanctioned by the town of Queensbury resulted in a finding that no significant "friable" asbestos appeared to be present in the remains of the building.


Ratto did not pay taxes on the 0.68-acre property or an adjacent 1.03-acre vacant lot he owned, and Gross bought the two for $5,000 and $9,000 respectively at the October property auction.


Warren County Real Property Tax Services Director Lexie Delurey said county records show that Gross transferred the properties to 894 Ridge Road LLC for the price that he paid for them.


Belden is listed as creator of the limited liability company, but Delurey said David Hartman was part of the transaction as a co-owner of the properties.


We would like to thank The Post Star for reprint permission.

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