Share this article

print logo

Man asks help to rehabilitate Straley Avenue house

Don Appenheimer fondly remembers celebrating the Fourth of July and other holidays with family friends at 166 Straley Ave., just a stone's throw from the southwest corner of Cheektowaga Town Park.

He hopes to do the same this summer -- if he gets the chance.

Appenheimer, of Blasdell, told the Cheektowaga Town Board on Wednesday of his plans to save the now-vacant home from the wrecking ball, but he said he needs help.

The property -- valued at roughly $22,000 -- has tax liens on it of $27,000 and needs another $25,000 to $42,000 in repairs to the home's foundation walls, according to estimates. That's not including the rehabilitation needed inside.

So, while the math doesn't appear to add up in Appenheimer's favor, he admitted sentimentality -- along with his credentials as a 20-year veteran contractor -- are motivating him.

It should be easy, he argued, with one condition: "All I really need is a break on paying the back taxes," he told the Town Board.

Appenheimer said he can't pay the back taxes and rehabilitate the house at the same time, but he is willing to work out an agreement with Erie County Real Property Tax Services, which holds the liens on the property.

"I would like to have the house for me. Not to rent it out. Not to sell it," he told the board, arguing it's folly for taxpayers to be on the hook for a $10,000 demolition bill in addition to the unpaid taxes when he's willing to invest in the house and make it a taxpaying property.

The current property owner, Kathy Barajas, hasn't lived there in several years and has not had the means to pay the property taxes on the house. She's agreeing, however, to expedite a sale to Appenheimer.

The wheels are already in motion for the property to go on the auction block March 5, and Town Board members were intent on moving ahead with plans to demolish the building after receiving complaints from neighbors about the property.

Council Member Charlie Markel said taxes haven't been paid on the property since 2006, and the town can either demolish it or reach out to Erie County to see what can be done.

Markel pointed out, however, that given that the median value of a home in that neighborhood is about $52,000, the taxes and repairs would exceed the value of the home.

Appenheimer told board members he thinks he can fix up the home for $17,000 -- except for the foundation work.

Supervisor Mary F. Holtz told Appenheimer that the decision will rest with the county because of the substantial back taxes owed, but she acknowledged it would be better for Cheektowaga to have a refurbished home "back on the tax rolls."

For a replay of the live blog from Wednesday's Cheektowaga Town Board meeting visit