Land Bank expects to take ownership of Governors Motor Inn in a week

Enterprise file photo by Michael Koff

The Governors Motor Inn in Guilderland has been boarded up since a 2010 fire, but will soon be owned by the Albany County Land Bank. The land bank will set about finding a reliable developer to buy the property and give it new life.

GUILDERLAND — The Governors Motor Inn — which has been a vacant eyesore since a fire in 2010, and in decline for years before that — will likely be owned by the Albany County Land Bank in a week or so, says the land bank’s executive director, Adam Zaranko.

This will pave the way, Zaranko says, for a sale process likely to bring the property back into stable and productive use, in some new form.

Until the land bank owns a property, its representatives cannot enter a building to assess its condition, so they have not yet been inside, Zaranko said.

“This is a unique property, and has a high profile, especially for the local residents,” Zaranko said of the land at 2505 Western Ave. It is not in a residential area like most of the properties the land bank receives, but instead is on a major thoroughfare and has a “big footprint, an interesting footprint,” he said.

The land bank has never received a property that was formerly a motor inn, Zaranko said, adding, “We have received a few mixed-use buildings, so we do have the expertise.”

The types of properties that the land bank usually receives, Zaranko said, tend to be “one- to three-family residential buildings, or vacant land ranging from small side lots in the suburbs to 65 acres in the Hilltowns.”

The land bank is likely, Zaranko said, to hold some sort of event announcing that the Governors Motor Inn property is for sale, in an effort to generate wide interest.

Zaranko said that, while the land bank sets a realistic price that takes into account work that needs to be done on a property, negotiations and even bidding wars do sometimes occur.

The property is in a local-business zone, Zaranko said, which presents a lot of different opportunities.

In a local business district in Guilderland, examples of allowed uses are bed-and-breakfast inns; medical offices; and, with a special-use permit, mixed-use buildings; garden facilities, or nurseries; banks including drive-through lanes; sit-down restaurants; local shopping centers; and assisted-living residential-care facilities.  

The Governor’s Motor Inn had its heyday a half-century ago when it featured live music and was a destination for couples going out to dine and dance. In more recent decades, it was rundown and rented rooms by the hour.

It has been boarded up and vacant since suffering extensive fire damage in 2010.

The out-of-state owners were in arrears on their taxes from 2012 and, in 2017, were charged by the town with a number of property-maintenance violations.

The property was listed for sale in August 2017 by CM Fox, at an initial asking price of $475,000, which a representative of the real-estate company said at the time reflected the need to pay off back taxes of more than $200,000.

A pending sale in February 2018 fell through in March. Tony Trimarchi of CM Fox said at the time that the asking price had been lowered numerous times, finally declining to $275,000.

Albany County then moved forward with foreclosure proceedings, because of the length of time the property had been in arrears. Michael McLaughlin, the county’s director of policy and research, said at the time, “We don’t foreclose on individual properties. We foreclose on lien years.”

With that, the process of transferring the property to the land bank began.

Zaranko described the process through which the land bank sells properties:

In the case of Governors Motor Inn, he said, the land bank has been looking over Guilderland’s zoning code to become familiar with the allowed uses in the local-business zoning district, to help with its approach to publicize it.

The land bank is also waiting to take ownership before being able to enter, to assess the condition, although, again in the case of Governors, it has been able to look at the outside.

Once the land bank takes ownership, it will do that more thorough assessment and will have its own real-estate broker make a list of recent sales of similar properties.

“Typically we’ll adjust the price, based on the condition,” Zaranko said. “We tailor it to be reflective of the property’s condition, which is why we can’t do it till we get in it.”

Interested developers are asked to submit applications, and the land bank then looks at these to see who is applying, what they are applying to do, and to make sure that the application, Zaranko says, “has a high probability of successful redevelopment.”

The land bank does not want to see the property fall back into foreclosure, Zaranko said, so it does not sell to people who have a history of bankruptcies or failure to pay taxes.

The land bank will likely share some of the ideas with the town, to make sure that they align with the allowable uses as outlined in the code, Zaranko said.

Anyone who wishes to will get a chance to apply, and all valid applications will get careful and even consideration, he said.

He was asked if, because of the nature of the process, applicants might be suddenly outbid, without a chance to negotiate.

In many cases, there will be a few rounds of bidding, he said, “with negotiations back and forth.”

Applicants are often told that a situation is competitive, and asked to raise their bids, he said.

The land bank is happy to take into account any thoughts from the town, “from an advisory standpoint,” Zaranko said, but those are not the basis for a decision.

The ultimate decision is made by the land bank’s board of directors, he explained.  

“We will work to turn it around much, much faster,” Zaranko said, “compared to the time it’s been vacant.”

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