Noble inks new law on va­cant build­ings

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Freeman staff

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.”

PHOTO BY TONY ADAMIS

A boarded up prop­erty in the Mid­town sec­tion of Kingston, N.Y.

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