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Proposed new law focuses on vacant buildings in Glens Falls

Proposed new law focuses on vacant buildings in Glens Falls

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'Zombie' property

The city is seeking to address vacant buildings by adopting a law that would require property owners to register vacant buildings with the city and impose stiff penalties against those who fail to comply. Seen here: A dilapidated property at 14 Goodwin Ave., Glens Falls.

GLENS FALLS — The city is looking to crack down on vacant buildings with a new ordinance that would require the properties to be registered and inspected regularly while imposing hefty fines against owners who fail to comply.

A public hearing will be held on Tuesday to give residents an opportunity to weigh in on the proposal, which has been in the making for months. The city currently has no law on the books to deal with vacant properties, which have cropped up sporadically throughout the city in recent years.

“Our goal really is to take these vacant properties and encourage people to come up with a plan to have them inspected and to turn them into non-vacant properties,” said Diana Palmer, the Third Ward councilwoman and chair of the city’s Building and Codes Committee.

Palmer said the number of vacant buildings in the city fluctuates, but she believes there are about 80 such buildings scattered throughout the city.

The proposed law would require the owners of vacant buildings to register the property with the city’s Building and Codes Department within 30 days of either the property becoming vacant or receiving notification from the city that the property must be registered. The properties must be re-registered annually until the building is no longer considered vacant.

Any building that is unoccupied or unsecured; unoccupied and determined to be unsafe by the city’s building inspector; is unoccupied and has multiple housing or building code violations; occupied by a person with no legal authority to live there; or has been left unoccupied for more than 90 days is considered vacant under the proposed law.

Once the building is registered, the owner will then be required to submit plans that would allow for the building to be reoccupied within a year, or file a letter with the city specifying why the building will continue to remain vacant for longer and detail plans to maintain and secure the building until it can be reoccupied.

If the owner has plans to demolish the building, then a demolition plan must be submitted along with a time frame for when the building will be razed.

The city’s building inspector will be tasked with inspecting each registered property throughout the year, according to the proposal.

Palmer said a number of local residents have voiced concerns about vacant buildings, which she said can attract crime and negatively impact property values.

Under the proposed law, owners that fail to comply would face stiff penalties, including a $1,000 fine or up to 15 days in jail. Each day the violation continues may be considered a separate offense, according to the law.

Palmer said she hopes the city will not be forced to take action against anyone once the law takes effect, but said that has yet to be determined.

“I guess we’ll have to sort of cross that bridge when we come to it. This is a new program for us,” she said. “Our goal is compliance more than to be punitive in any way.”

Chad Arnold is a reporter for The Post-Star covering the city of Glens Falls and the town and village of Lake George. Follow him on Twitter @ChadGArnold.

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