The former owner of the White Inn believes more needs to be done by local leaders to make doing business in the country easier.
At a recent meeting of the Chattauqua County Legislature, a public hearing was held on the White Inn’s application for the county’s Restaurateur NY grant.
The White Inn has been closed for the past four years and needs an estimated $3.9 million in repairs. Local developers Steve St. George and Devin Jones have purchased the facility and are moving forward with plans to restore it. Chautauqua County is offering tax incentives through the county’s Industrial Development Agency as well as grants on behalf of The White Inn.
One of the requirements of the grant application is that a public hearing be held.
Robert Contigulia of Fredonia spoke during the public hearing. He sold it in 2008 and owned the White Inn for 15 years.
While he did not object to the application outright, he did question the concept of the county applying for a grant on behalf of a private business. “The White Inn is considered the crown jewel of Fredonia, but it’s really just a private business—a business that competes with other businesses.” he said.
Contiguglia agrees that the renovated White Inn will attract businesses, but also believes it will take away business from other establishments. “Each re-entrant takes a small piece of existing business.” he said.
Contiguglia understands the importance of competition, but adds, “The competition should be on a level playing field, not a playing field where one business gets a lot of aid and other businesses get none.” he said.
He reviewed the requirements for support and found that when he sold it 15 years ago, he would not have been eligible even if he had sought financial support. “The White House was not on the verge of falling apart because I spent a lot of money to repair it. I wasn’t creating a job; I only keep jobs – jobs that were lost after I sold the property, because I myself was having financial problems. he said.
In the year If it had received funding in 2008, it would have been far less than it needs today, he said. There’s a scratch in there. “It’s good to pay attention to projects that require special assistance requirements, but the county needs to protect and promote all existing businesses, not just those that are eligible for assistance. If so, there will probably be more winners and the playing field will be a bit more level. he said.
Legislator Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia, said he understands Contiguglia’s point as someone who owns several businesses, but said he doesn’t support what he’s saying.
Scudder continued to voice support for The White Inn Relief Fund. “The White Inn is widely known. … Restoring White’s Landing is good for Fredonia, good for SUNY Fredonia, good for Chauqua County and good for all of Western New York. he said.
He believes restoring The White Inn could be a catalyst for revitalizing Fredonian Village. “The whole region will be better off with a renovated and open for business White Hotel.” he said.
Legislator Susan Parker, D-Fredonia, agreed. “The White Inn has operated continuously as a hotel and restaurant for 100 years. … Everyone has a story about the White Inn. She said.
She explained that RESTORE NY is designed for private businesses that help the community. “The program promotes community development and local development by removing and redeveloping dilapidated buildings.” She said.
After the meeting, the chairman of the legislature, Pierre Chanon, now held a public hearing, the county IDA will move forward and apply for the grant.