In response to Patrick North’s letter Friday (“Never again”), Bellefonte Borough never owned the Garman Theatre property and, rightfully, the state Borough Code procedures related to real estate disposition did not apply.
A state law called the Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservatorship Act was applied to the Garman property because it had an unresponsive first-mortgage holder (a holding company in Massachusetts), about $2 million of debt on the title, about $70,000 in back taxes, was fire-damaged and was uninsured.
The entire process, including the property transfer and the associated agreement, was reviewed and approved by our court system. Past court appeals were baseless and quickly dismissed.
Throughout the process we have balanced many issues. With respect to historic preservation, the fire-damaged (2009) Cadillac Building, designed by the first female architect in Pennsylvania, will be restored.
With respect to affordable housing, we will gain 32 units, less than we had prior to fires at the Cadillac and Academy buildings.
Our area has affordable-housing issues. A few years ago a homeless man who held a part-time job, froze to death just outside of Bellefonte.
With respect to our taxpayers, when properties are abandoned and action is needed, it falls to borough government to take responsibility. Instead of having three downtown properties potentially costing our taxpayers, we will have a restored Cadillac Building and a new architecturally compatible building in place of the Garman and the Hotel Do-De. These buildings will have fire sprinkler systems and will add to the tax base.
Ralph Stewart, Bellefonte