Spa City adopts law to deal with vacant homes
The Saratoga Springs City Council has adopted a new vacant buildings ordinance to help the city deal with an increase in foreclosures and empty homes or commercial buildings becoming unsightly and unsafe.
Kevin Veitch, a city code administrator, said in the past few years his office is seeing more foreclosures, especially single-family homes being vacated.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get someone to maintain the property,” he said.
City officials are finding that some of the 50 vacant properties around the city have not been maintained and have fallen into disrepair. Some have been broken into.
“They become an attractive nuisance,” Veitch said. He said sometimes homeless people break into such buildings “to get out of the cold.”
The new ordinance was adopted by the City Council on Feb. 5. The regulations require the owner of a vacant building to register the building with the city code administration office no later than 30 days after the building becomes vacant.
The cost is $250 for a single-family home and $500 for a commercial building.
The city code office, in consultation with the Saratoga Springs Fire Department, will schedule periodic inspections of each vacant property.
Each registered vacant property will be assessed by city code and fire personnel.
If there are problems with the property a list of corrections will be developed and sent to the property owner.
The property owner will be given a period of time to correct the problems and then the building will be re-inspected.
If all is well there will be no fee charged.
If the corrections have not been made then the city will charge $50 for a second inspection and $75 or more for a third inspection, if necessary.
The city will want to know if water, electrical power and natural gas to the building has been shut off.
The city requires that the sidewalks in front of a vacant building be shoveled and, in the warmer months, the grass mowed and shrubbery trimmed so the property does not become an eyesore.
The city code administration office is putting together an application form with a checklist for the owners of such vacant buildings.
In the case of vacant commercial property, Veitch said the city may require that the building have its windows boarded up and the building painted if it needs paint.
The city Fire Department also wants to know what is inside vacant commercial properties. For example, the owner of a vacant commercial building may allow someone to store used tires inside, which could be a fire safety issue if the building were to catch fire.
“We don’t want these buildings being used for something they weren’t intended for,” Veitch said.
The registration of vacant buildings will allow city officials to have a contact number and address for the building owner or the number of a person who is responsible for maintaining the structure.
Before the city adopted the vacant buildings ordinance there was nothing in the city code to deal with such vacant structures. Veitch said the code administration office would use the state’s property maintenance code, which does not include a registry and inspection system.