By Eric DuVall, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tonawanda News — The former Ascension church, school and rectory at Robinson and Oliver streets in North Tonawanda has been sold, city records show.
North Tonawanda Assessor Flora Carozzolo confirmed that the three parcels, which have been for sale by the Buffalo Catholic Diocese since the church closed nearly three years ago, were bought by a Clarence Center man and his father, who is believed to be a North Tonawanda resident.
Kelly Kuntz of Heise Road, was the listed buyer for the three buildings and an adjacent parking lot. And it would appear given the size of the venerable red brick structure and adjacent buildings— all told, about 45,000 square feet — he got a bargain.
The parcels were sold for a combined $135,000, Carozzolo said.
“It was for sale for the longest time,” Carozzolo said. “They just couldn’t sell it.”
Efforts to reach Kuntz and his father, George, were unsuccessful Friday and Carozzolo couldn’t comment on their intentions for the building.
A fourth building, the former Msgr. Szabo Hall, was sold to a church group based in Lockport and has since been converted into the Fair Havens Community Center, a multi-purpose youth hall, banquet center and food pantry.
It is unknown whether Kuntz has any association with the Fair Havens group.
One thing is known, however: The property will soon take a place on the city tax roll. Kuntz, being a private buyer, does not qualify for the tax-exempt status presently enjoyed by the diocese.
Though she acknowledged the sale price was “very low,” Carozzolo said the amount of time the property sat available for purchase made it impossible to list its assessed value at anything more than what Kuntz has agreed to pay.
Carozzolo said the property would be assessed at $135,000 for one year and Kuntz will be responsible for all applicable property taxes. After a year, the property would be subject to an assessment review or, if it were to continue as a place of worship, again receive tax-exempt status.
A representative from the diocese’s property and maintenance office couldn’t be reached to comment on the former church’s sale.
The diocese had originally put all four parcels Kuntz purchased up for auction in May 2011. At that time, the church and rectory were assessed at $198,000 and had known structural problems. The highest bid for those two buildings was just $10,000, by a Falconer Street resident. That bid was summarily rejected by the diocese because it was too low.
The Ascension building is a registered city landmark, so despite the sale, no dramatic changes to the brick facade can be made without the approval of city officials.
Carozzolo said the sale is expected to close sometime in the next several days.