GLENVILLE — A company with plans to start a distillery inside the old Rector firehouse has been blocked from the building and is going to court to seek access.
Scotia attorney Kenneth Gibbons is behind the effort to redevelop the firehouse into a distillery and, potentially, office/professional space. He filed a lawsuit against the Beukendaal Fire Company in early May, saying he’s been denied access to the building to conduct what he says is necessary environmental testing.
Gibbons has approval from the town of Glenville to launch a small distillery inside half of the building, and he has the necessary federal and state approvals to make whiskey and other distilled spirits on the site. He is a principal in Guardian Preservation LLC, the corporation that has contracted to buy the structure.
The distillery plan has caught the fancy of some town officials, who see the facility — along with Wolf Hollow Brewing a little farther west and a soon-to-open maple sugar business — as the nucleus of a tourism corridor in West Glenville.
“We obviously hope that they can resolve this,” said town Supervisor Chris Koetzle. “We like this idea. I think it’s a nice addition for the corridor.”
Gibbons signed an agreement in July to buy the building for $120,000. In January, after reviewing the plans, the town Planning and Zoning Commission set a condition that floor drains in the firetruck bays be examined to determine where they lead and whether any potentially harmful chemicals have been put down those drains.
Gibbons said he’s retained an environmental testing specialist to do the work, but in the lawsuit alleges that he’s being prevented from doing those tests, and that the fire district has acted in “bad faith.”
Exchanges between attorneys included in the lawsuit indicate that Gibbons withdrew his purchase in late January or early February, though he later renewed it. The fire commissioners for part of that time didn’t want to renew the sale agreement, though the parties eventually agreed to proceed forward, but said the deal must close by June 12. Since then, Gibbons said he’s been refused access for the testing.
“It’s either, do they not want me to do the testing because there’s nasty stuff down there, or they don’t want to sell to me and they’re hoping to sell it to someone else for more money down the road,” Gibbons said. “I can’t think of a third possibility.”
Beukendaal’s attorney, Terence Hannigan of Delmar, offered the following statement: “In its answer served on June 5, 2017, the Fire District denied the allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint as baseless. The Fire District also affirmatively asserted that the lawsuit is without merit.”
On Wednesday, Hannigan said, the district filed a motion with the court seeking dismissal of the lawsuit, with legal costs awarded to the fire district.
The fire station was built in 1931 by the volunteer Rectors fire department, though it has had at least one subsequent addition. The Rectors department in 1997 merged with the Beukendaal department, which provides provides fire protection for most of West Glenville. It isn’t clear when the Rectors station stopped being used for firefighting purposes.