Saratoga Springs officials to combat vacant property eyesores
Saratoga Springs, NY: City workers, with assistance from the county, have identified and moved to curtail properties left to the elements by instigating a vacant property registration ordinance voted on in February 2013.
Office of Code Administration workers were granted the “authority to inspect any premises in the City for the purpose of determining whether there exists thereon a vacant building as defined in this chapter. Such inspection may be conducted by consent of the owner or upon the issuance of an appropriate court order,” according to Chapter 222: Vacant Buildings on the City of Saratoga Springs website.
Property owners will have 30 days from the point the property goes vacant to register the property with the Office of Code Administration. The registration fee for commercial properties is $500, and single-family properties set at $250.
The following information is required in in addition to the registration fees:
“A description of the premises; The name and address of the owner; If the owner does not reside in Saratoga County or in any adjoining county, the name and address of any third party who the owner has contracted with for management of the premises; The names and addresses of all known lien holders and all other persons with an ownership interest in the premises; A telephone number where a responsible party can be reached at all times during business and nonbusiness hours; A written narrative describing the owner's future plan for the premises. Said plan must specify whether the owner intends to allow the building to remain vacant, to return the building to appropriate occupancy or use, or to demolish the building. The plan must also specify a time for its completion, and said time frame shall not exceed 365 days, unless a longer period shall be allowed by the Office of Code Administration in a proper case.”
Those failing to adhere to the code may be subject to the penalties in “Chapter 1, General Provisions, Article III,” of the city code: “Unless otherwise specifically provided in this Code, any person who violates any provision of this Code shall, upon conviction thereof, be subject to a fine not exceeding $250 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 days, or both. Each day that such violation continues shall constitute a separate offense.”
Owners of the properties already vacant before the program was underway were notified of the need to participate in the registry. Some decided to adhere to the ordinance, while others put the vacant properties up for sale, thereby temporarily sidestepping the distinction of “vacant” attached to the property due to the language of the ordinance.
City officials are hopeful about the program, and the positive effects to safety and security brought on by identifying the more dilapidated structures so as to apprise law enforcement and fire officials in case of emergency situations as to potential hazards.
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