Demolition of a vacant but highly visible church building in North Buffalo that was the site of a fire in April could be under way by the end of the week.
Although the Preservation Board has sought to delay the city’s decision by designating the building a city landmark, city officials have said that if the building’s owners have met the requirements to obtain a demolition permit, one cannot be denied. .
“Personally I think it’s a beautiful building, and I would hate to see it demolished,” Mayor Byron W. Brown said Wednesday of the former home of a Korean Methodist congregation, at Colvin and Tacoma avenues.
However, Brown said, the city has to follow the law if the property owner is requesting to demolish it and has met the requirements.
Permits and Inspections Commissioner James Comerford Jr. is reviewing the application and is expected to issue a permit “shortly,” city spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said Wednesday afternoon.
DeGeorge said he doubted that the city would wait for the landmark designation process to run its course.
The city could have issued a permit already, because the application was received Nov. 26, and the city must wait only 30 days to issue one.
City officials predicted a permit could be issued by the end of the week, as long as the application is in order.
Permits cannot be unreasonably withheld, said Peter J. Savage III, deputy corporation counsel.
The Preservation Board is hoping to stop the demolition and has begun the process of designating 375 Colvin Ave. as a city landmark.
“Part of our charge with threatened buildings is to evaluate them,” said board member Tim Tielman.
The board is holding a public hearing on the designation Jan. 10, but that might be too late, according to the city’s timeline.
The designation would also face confirmation by the Common Council, which would add at least another two weeks to the process.
The Preservation Board has more authority over the future of buildings that are city landmarks or are in preservation districts. For buildings like the former church, which does not fall into either category, the board can make a recommendation to the commissioner but, short of a lawsuit, cannot hold up the demolition permit.
Maidstone Mulenga, a spokesman for the Upper New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, which owns the building, said Wednesday that the church continues to wait on a permit.
The large church has been vacant since 2006, and plans to reuse the building have not yet materialized.
However, Tielman said there has been some recent interest, and a landmark designation would help a developer by making the property eligible for historic tax credits.
The April fire caused $250,000 in damage, and the church has said it has been working with the city to make sure the building is safe.
The building features a bell tower and is a commanding presence on a busy street. Over the years, it has been home to congregations of various faiths.
Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto said there is no urgent need to tear it down.
“It’s like the city saying it’s OK to ignore your buildings and we’re going to help you do demolition by neglect,” LoCurto said.