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CHARGES DROPPED IN SCHMIDT CASE

Ten years, 41 counts of neglect, 18 court adjournments, six postponed trials, one demolished building.

Fines paid to the city: Zero.

The long-standing case against Alex Schmidt and his dilapidated, two-story building razed earlier this year at 736 Main St. ended when the city recommended to City Housing Court Judge Henry J. Nowak that all code violations be dismissed.

The city's reluctance to fine Schmidt drew an angry response from Louis Petrucci, the city's chief building inspector. He said the Schmidt building was demolished only because violations went unheeded -- and unpunished -- for 10 years. "This sends a bad message to people who want to neglect their preservation properties," he said.

Petrucci said the city's inspection and permits department invested hundreds of man-hours inspecting the building over the years -- with now nothing to show for it.

The decision comes at a time when Amherst developer Michael Joseph and his company, Clover Management, have signed an agreement to buy the property, along with the land on which Schmidt's Collision & Glass operates, to build a mix of rental units and condominiums.

Mayor Anthony M. Masiello has sought the development of the blighted 700 block, and a source said the dropping of all charges in City Housing Court was a condition of the agreement.

Joseph owns the Ansonia and Sidway apartments on that block, and is rumored to want to acquire the site of the embattled, three-story Vernor Building next door at 756 Main St. if the building, also tied up in Housing Court, gets an expected go-ahead for demolition.

Corporation counsel Michael B. Risman defended the Masiello administration's decision to drop charges.

"Our ultimate goal has always been to get the property developed and in the hands of someone prepared and willing to improve it," Risman said. "We thought in the big picture this would facilitate that." Risman said while Schmidt was never fined, he didn't get off scot-free. "I'm sure he had enormous expenses in legal fees."

Schmidt did not return calls seeking comment.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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