Noble inks new law on vacant buildings
Mayor Steve Noble said Kingston’s new vacant buildings law, coupled with initiatives to address “zombie” properties, should improve the quality of life in the city.
Noble signed the vacant buildings legislation Wednesday, repealing and replacing a previous version. Under the new law, the city will identify and register vacant buildings; determine the responsibility of the owners; establish a process for securing, maintaining and rehabilitating the properties; and require registration of the properties with the city Building Department.
The new law also requires the owners of such buildings to pay an annual fee that will escalate as long as the building remains vacant.
The city currently has an estimated 300 zombie properties, according to the mayor.
“In addition to negatively impacting the appearance of our neighborhoods, residential and commercial buildings that have been left vacant and/or abandoned for significant periods of time can also present serious health and safety issues,” Noble said in a prepared statement. He
said the new legislation, “coupled with new initiatives we are implementing to address zombie properties, will strengthen our efforts to improve the quality of life in our community.”
Under the new law, mortgagees will be required to register all properties in foreclosure within 10 days of filing. Also, all owners will have to register their properties within 10 days after any building becomes abandoned or vacant, or within 20 days after being told by the city code enforcement officer to do so.
A building would be considered vacant under the law after it has been unoccupied for more than 90 days.
The new legislation also includes a section on “certification of abandonment,” which allows the city to take steps to ensure a property is properly maintained after it has been certified as abandoned. The cost of such maintenance would be charged to the property owner as a municipal lien or special tax.
While a building or property is abandoned, the owner or mortgage holder would be required to pay an annual fee to the city. That fee would be $1,200 for each of the first four years the property was abandoned. In the fifth year, the fee would increase to $5,200. An additional $1,000 would be added to the fee each year thereafter, up to 10 years.
Exceptions under the law include properties that were damaged by fire or extreme weather.
Kingston structured its legislation after the law in the Orange County city of Port Jervis.
“We actually modeled our law on theirs because they have also gone after these properties pretty strongly,” Noble said. “... They also, as a small city, had some of the same issues.”
A boarded up property in the Midtown section of Kingston, N.Y.