Press-Republican

April 23, 2014

Councilors concerned about idle properties

By JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Concerned about the image of the city, Plattsburgh councilors are looking to strengthen measures to take care of rotting properties.

“These properties are blights on neighborhoods, and they affect the property value of other properties,” Councilor Becky Kasper (D-Ward 5) said at a recent council work session.

She and other councilors say they are seeing an increase in abandoned properties that have fallen into disrepair. If the owner does not pay the taxes on the place, it can be foreclosed on by the city and sold at auction.

But the process can take as long as three years, leaving some neighborhoods to deal with dilapidated buildings.

Councilor Dale Dowdle (R-Ward 3) said he has seen several abandoned buildings that are being used for “other purposes.”

“People have been seen coming in and out of some of these buildings, and I can just imagine what is going on,” he said.

‘NEED STRONGER STANDARDS’

Kasper said there are several homes in her ward that have been left to fall into disrepair.

“I would like to see us strengthen our standards because there are a lot of people who make such an effort to improve their neighborhoods, and they should not have to have something like that across the street from them,” she said.

Mayor James Calnon said City Police and the Building Inspector’s Office do respond to complaints about abandoned properties, but if there is no violation of laws on the books and the building is deemed secure and safe, little can be done.

“We need to look at several zoning issues to see if we can improve what the city looks like,” he said.

IN LIMBO

There are only three properties that are headed for the foreclosure and auction process this summer, the mayor said, but there are several in limbo.

“They refer to these properties as zombie properties because they are not really alive, but they are not dead either,” Calnon said.

“They are kind of in between, and they don’t really belong to the bank or the owner.”

There is state legislation pending that would cut down the amount of time it would take for a municipality to foreclose on a property, but in the meantime, Calnon said, the city will look at how it can control maintenance of zombie properties better.

“Some of these properties are terrible places to even walk by, so we need to take a look at what we can do.”

Email Joe LoTemplio:jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com