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What you need to know for 09/25/2017

Riggis likely to sue city over demolition moratorium

Riggis likely to sue city over demolition moratorium

The attorney for Ron and Michele Riggi said Thursday that the couple is likely to sue the city for p

The attorney for Ron and Michele Riggi said Thursday that the couple is likely to sue the city for passing a demolition moratorium.

“I think that my clients will go forward with litigation against the city,” Saratoga Springs attorney John Carusone said.

He said the moratorium, which the City Council unanimously passed on Tuesday to stop the demolition of any individual or contributing buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, is obviously directed at the Riggis.

The couple recently purchased 23 Greenfield Ave., an 1858 home that contributes to the Broadway historic district listed on the national register.

The property is also contiguous to their sprawling Palazzo Riggi on North Broadway.

Carusone said the moratorium may be illegal because it targets that historic home.

The new law is effective until Feb. 1 but can be extended beyond that.

The moratorium was first discussed in May, two weeks after the city issued a stop-work order on activity at the two-story brick home because windows and porch roofs were being removed. For several weeks, the home’s buyer was a secret.

Then it was revealed that the Riggis bought the home on a third of an acre for about $1.1 million.

The city’s new moratorium is broad, doesn’t mention 23 Greenfield Ave. or any other site and doesn’t include exceptions, on advice from City Attorney Joseph Scala, said Mayor Scott Johnson.

The Riggis bought the property with the intention of tearing down the house, which is legal because it is not in a city historic district.

The home contributes to the Broadway historic district on the National Register of Historic Places, but that federal designation alone doesn’t protect a building from being demolished. Only local laws can keep a building from being razed.

While the moratorium is in place, city officials hope to beef up their laws and possibly expand city historic districts to include buildings listed on the national register.

While there is some overlap between the city’s historic districts and the national register, the two don’t always coincide.

At a City Council meeting last month, neighbors and preservation advocates urged that the Greenfield Avenue demolition be stopped, saying that the historic house is in excellent condition.

Some residents blasted the Riggis in comments to the council, referring derisively to the couple’s 30 toy breed dogs and their palatial mansion.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, a resident suggested that the city’s tax revenue would decrease if the home is demolished. The entire property at 23 Greenfield Ave. is assessed at $891,000, but the land alone is assessed at $292,000.

The Riggis’ home at 637 North Broadway is assessed at $4.8 million.

The new moratorium also temporarily stops the demolition of another historic home that the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation opposed.

Joseph Boff, who owns an 1871 house at 66 Franklin St., has applied to demolish it because the vacant building has been ruled unsafe.

Boff’s attorneys had asked for an amendment that would exempt properties like his from the moratorium, but the City Council opted not to include it.

Boff currently is completing an environmental impact statement to determine how the demolition would affect the environment, said Patrick Kane, chairman of the Design Review Commission.

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