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Niskayuna may eye law on vacant houses

Sunday, May 12, 2013
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— The Niskayuna Town Board could pursue an ordinance to help keep better tabs on vacant houses in the town and ultimately to get them fixed up.

The idea was floated Friday by town planner Kathy Matern at the town’s economic development committee meeting and a Town Board member immediately said she would sponsor such a resolution.

Town officials have been trying to deal with a small number of vacant houses through traditional code enforcement and other means, but the issue persists.

One house often talked about is one at the corner of Balltown Road and Union Street, a crossroads of the town.

Matern pointed committee members to the town of Glenville, which has set up a system of vacant building fees that help cover the costs of monitoring and inspecting vacant properties.

Town Board member Denise Murphy McGraw responded with immediate interest.

“I think that would be a great idea,” McGraw said. “I would love to sponsor that resolution.”

McGraw later reaffirmed her interest in pursuing the idea and finding out more about the Glenville plan.

Glenville has had the vacant-building fees for three or four years now, Glenville town building inspector Paul Borisenko said Friday.

He said compliance generally has been good. If officials hear of a house that has become vacant, they will contact the owner, telling them of the need to register.

“It’s a lot of things, but mostly it’s finding out contact information, finding out what the status is and what the plan is,” Borisenko said.

The annual fee is $100 for a single-family or two-family residential building, according to Glenville town code. The multifamily residential or commercial fee is $300. Fees then increase each year for five years.

The fee is to help cover “reviewing and approving rehabilitation plans, securing and providing rehabilitation assistance and the costs of monitoring and inspecting the vacant building site,” plus administrative costs, according to the code.

The code also includes exceptions through one-year waivers, including situations in which the owner-occupant is hospitalized or at a skilled-care facility, the owner has died and the title not yet legally transferred, and that the property has been listed for sale, along with some other exceptions.

 
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