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Village of Wellsville applies to acquire The Grand Theatre via tax auction

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Allegany County has placed the property on the auction block

By Andrew Harris

Village of Wellsville Mayor Randy Shayler has completed the paperwork on behalf of the Village of Wellsville necessary to begin finalizing a tax sale purchase of The Grand Theatre on Main Street. Shayler confirmed that the Village of Wellsville has filed paper work with the Allegany County Treasurers office.

County officials confirmed that the paperwork from the village of Wellsville has been recieved. The matter must now be approved by the full board of legislators in order to get the property off the tax auction and deeded to the village. With the next full board meeting not scheduled until after the tax auction begins, a special meeting of, or action by the legislature is expected to be announced.

If District IV legislator Steven Havey’s opinion is any indication of support from Belmont, the sale should be just a matter of time:

“If the question of the village of Wellsville buying the Grand Theater  comes up for a vote, I will support it.  It’s important that such an icon of Main Street in Wellsville be acquired by an entity that can make sure it has the best chance it can to again be a gathering place for residents of Allegany County.  I believe that the Village of Wellsville would be the perfect steward.” – Legislator Havey

The property, formerly the Lin-Ray Cinemas, has been owned by Darren Jones as The Grand Theatre since 2004. Jones purchased the property for $94,000, it is assessed at $100,000, and full market value stands at $137,000.

The property tax hasn’t been paid in three years, which is when the county typically seizes the property and sells it off. That auction starts on March 21st.

Wellsville residents and neighboring businesses have been concerned about the building for several years and the pandemic was a final blow to the operation itself. A visit today for a few photos indicates an abandoned business that has had “better days.” When the theatre hit the county tax auction, the village of Wellsville discussed the future of a true Wellsville landmark.

Shayler reports that the discussion revealed municipalities can buy properties off the auction list before bidding starts.

At such a low price, the immediate worry for the village is: Who’s going to buy this place and what will they do with it?

The village history with important Main Street buildings going up for tax sale, like the “Burrous Building,” or the “Old Depot,” gave Shayler and the board reason to worry. A buyer with either bad intentions(tax write-off purposes,) or the best intentions(but no means to execute,) could spell disaster for Main Street.

Shayler, the board of trustees, and many in the public believe that the theatre property is too important to leave to chance:

“Can you imagine a scenario where that marquee disconnects and falls onto the sidewalk and street? This is a defensive move for the village.”

Mayor randy shayler

Shayler explains that, “The village isn’t in the movie theatre business, it isn’t in the downtown building business, but we do have a duty to take an opportunity if it is in the best interest of the village.”

The village has the extra money from the American Rescue Plan funding and a recent $4.5 million dollar grant award for downtown revitialization supports the decision to act. Whether the village takes ownership and “flips” the property to a fully vetted investor, or if the village assumes a landlord role, the ARP funding will likely be a major factor.

Read our reporting on the $4.5 million dollar grant for downtown Wellsville

This is a developing story, look to the Sun for more updates as information becomes available.

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