Business blames SAFE Act for move from Farmington

Posted at: 12/08/2013 10:50 AM
Updated at: 12/08/2013 12:41 PM
By: Melody Burri/Messenger Post

In stark contrast to new construction, infrastructure upgrades and storefront facelifts along Routes 96 and 332 in Farmington, two vacant buildings stand dormant, both casualties of New York’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act of 2013, according to their owner.

Supervisor Ted Fafinski concurred. Fafinski said until last spring, the two structures at 6162 and 6132 Route 96 were being completely renovated in preparation for the opening of a new showroom, a small arms training space and an indoor range. The properties were home to AR15.com, an Internet-based community, distributor and manufacturer of AR15 semi-automatic rifles and assorted firearms.

But within a few months of the SAFE Act passage in January, AR15 owners packed up and moved out of state, Fafinski said. Both properties are now for sale. The empty buildings display “Gone to Texas!” signs.

“Not only did we lose existing jobs because of the SAFE Act, but now there are two vacant buildings — and yet ‘New York is open for business,’” said Fafinski.

Cyber beginnings

AR15.com originated in 1996 as a mailing list, eventually morphing into a website for firearm enthusiasts as a means to collect, share, and explore information.

“Before we knew it we were the largest firearms website in the world,” said Edward Avila, AR15.com owner and administrator. “(Staff members) were working out of their homes, and we kind of wanted to find a central office.”

What they found was a three-piece parcel between Wade's Market and McDonald's in Farmington, where Avila and colleagues hoped to open up a showroom — something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the state, Avila said.

“We put a lot of money and a lot of time into renovating that building and doing the cleanup — about $2 to $3 million,” said Avila. “And that’s nothing compared to the potential for jobs. We spent about a million and a half of that for three different properties and two different buildings.”

One of those was the former Griffin Technology Inc. site — the target of extensive toxic cleanup and part of New York’s Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) before it was finally declared an Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site in 2011. Over the years potential buyers had walked away, reluctant to take on potential liabilities associated with the property.

Avila said AR15 has funded the most recent remediation treatments, and cleanup and maintenance is still going on. The building at 6162 Route 96 was the focus of intensive renovations.

“We built everything from offices, a walk-in vault, a state-of-the-art training room with surround sound and projectors, retail space out front with hand-built display cases — it was all custom built for that facility,” Avila said. “Gun stores are just never built fancy, but we wanted this to be a real showcase. We wanted to make it a destination point in addition to a business.”

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