OLEAN – Epic Church of Olean is one step closer to being the new owners of an Olean landmark after Monday night’s meeting of the city Planning Board.

After naming itself the lead agency for environmental review on the site application, the Planning Board awarded a negative declaration to the plan, claiming no adverse environmental impact. The site plan, as presented to the board, was approved. The action nearly clears the way for repurposing of the building right after a referendum, scheduled from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 4 in Olean Intermediate Middle School.

A final piece of governmental approval will take place at 7 p.m. Jan. 27 in the City Council Chambers at the Olean Municipal Building, as a public hearing is set to take place. The public hearing will be the last time neighbors of the property will be able to voice concerns with the project. Shortly after that hearing, the Planning Board will make its final determination on the project, before the referendum takes place. All decisions of the board are contingent on the purchase passing the referendum.

Epic was the successful bidder in the purchase of what was Ivers J. Norton Elementary School, originally School 10 but renamed after longtime principal, then-Mayor Ivers J. Norton. Epic exceeded the acceptable bid for the property at 421 W. Henley St. The minimum bid was listed at $140,000, with Epic placing the $142,000 bid to secure the purchase rights.

The Olean City School District made the decision to close the school, as well as the former Boardmanville Elementary School on the city’s North Side, as a way to close a budget gap of more than $3 million, after the 2011-2012 school year. The Boardmanville property was sold with hope of creating a new medical facility. The former school is situated near Olean General Hospital and Olean Medical Group. After a failed attempt to sell Ivers J. Norton to Community Bank, N.A., in 2013, the building has sat vacant.