By ALISSA SCOTT
Though slowly paying off steep back taxes and fees accrued after buying the former Park Hill Adult Home in Amsterdam, owner Bala Peri still smiled as he walked through his new property Monday, admiring wooden paneling and dusty fireplaces.
"I think it's so beautiful," Peri said while unwinding accordian-style shutters. "I really like it."
Peri, a Virginia man who last month purchased the 52 Grove St. property on his home computer for $175,000, has been in town sprucing up the place.
Moving from room to room, he enthusiastically described plans for a spa and a restored and repolished outer deck. He said he's trying to remain hopeful, but the fees and taxes are weighing him down.
Peri said he has set up a payment plan with the city and has paid off almost $50,000 so far. Still, in a two-year span, he has to pay triple that in taxes alone.
The property, which started at auction for $3 million, does not include the business or the license. When the price tag dropped to $175,000, Peri thought he was getting a great deal.
Robert von Hasseln, community and economic development director, said the property was worth what he paid for it.
Peri said he tried to negotiate with the city, requesting it waive the $60,000 in penalties or offer him aid on the almost $200,000 owed in back taxes, but he said city officials couldn't help.
Von Hasseln has been working with Peri since the purchase, and though he said waiving the taxes is illegal, he can look into potential grants once he sees a business plan.
Peri said he's working on it.
"I need something from the city," Peri said. "I don't want loans. I hate loans. I want grants. If they are ready to give a $300,000 loan, I don't want it. No thank you. But a $30,000 grant, I'm happy to take that."
Peri said loans are burdensome and he cannot work under those conditions.
When he first purchased the property, he was set on preserving its original purpose -- as a senior home -- and that hasn't changed.
To begin the process of restoring the senior home, Peri, with the support of von Hasseln, visited a recent planning board meeting and presented a site plan, which was approved.
He also had an architect and consultant visit the property Monday. Peri said he will hire them to assess the building and prepare the documentation for becoming a nursing home.
Allowing three months for the consultant to prepare everything, Peri said the process will take at least 20 months. Once submitted, the state still has grounds to reject his proposal.
"That can happen," Peri said. "But I'm hopeful."
During that time, to generate income for the back taxes and penalties, Peri said he wants to open a "high-end" bed and breakfast. Originally, he wanted to work with the Disabled American Veterans and the Department of Social Services to rent out rooms to those in need but he has since switched gears.
He has been working with his neighbor to plan the business and has also talked to local shop owners who are willing to help.
So far, the group has been considering French food and they hope to open before Thanksgiving.
Before that, the building has several internal projects that need to be completed. When Peri purchased the property, he found that nearly all of the copper piping from the plumbing system had been stolen.
He has hired a certified plumber who expects the work to be done in two weeks, although Peri said he's more confident in a four-week completion goal.
The sprinkler and smoke alarm systems also need to be reinstalled.
Still, the majority of the three-floor, 53-room structure's wood work and carpeting is intact. A large fireplace in one of the main lobbies saw little to no damage. Even with all the work that needs to be done, Peri considers the 24,000-square-foot property a "beautiful mansion."