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Vacant building law to curb cost of city services

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A vacant property on the corner of State and Seventh streets in Hudson. The Hudson Common Council is looking to create a registry of vacant properties.
June 12, 2018 11:37 am

HUDSON — The Common Council is considering a law that would require property owners in the city to register vacant buildings and pay a yearly fee as long as the building remains unoccupied.

The proposed legislation was presented to the Common Council last August, and it was sent back to the Legal Committee and the new Housing and Transportation Committee for revisions.

The proposed law was expected to be presented to the Common Council for discussion at its informal meeting Monday night.

“It is the finding of the Common Council that buildings which remain vacant, with access points boarded over, are unsightly, unsafe and have a negative effect on their surroundings,” according to the most recent version of the proposed law.

Second Ward Alderwoman Tiffany Garriga helped draft the proposed law.

“This is one of the main concerns coming out of the second ward,” Garriga said. “The upcoming vote is very important. This law will benefit the city on many levels. It addresses the housing shortage, economic development and city revenue. Vacant, warehoused buildings do not benefit anyone. They are a drag on the economy, hamper development and create an atmosphere of deterioration.”

The law was modeled after similar legislation in Albany and Saratoga Springs, 4th Ward Alderman John Rosenthal said.

In February 2013, Saratoga Springs adopted an ordinance titled “Chapter 222 Vacant Buildings” to identify and register vacant buildings while “imposing reasonable responsibilities for the property owners,” according to the Saratoga Springs’ website.

Owners must register vacant properties with the city and pay a fee to be added to the vacant property registry, according to Saratoga Springs’s city code. The fees are higher in Saratoga Springs. In Saratoga Springs, residential property owners pay a $300 fee for the first year on the registry and non-residential property owners pay $600. The fee increases to $1,000 for residential and $2,000 for non-residential properties after five years.

The proposed law in Hudson is not a tax, but means to cover the cost of increased demand in city services, including police and fire department, Rosenthal said.

A relationship exists between vacant buildings and property crime, Hudson Police Chief L. Edward Moore said.

“We know as vacant, dilapidated buildings such as homes become repaired we see a corresponding drop in property crime,” Moore said. “That’s why it’s encouraging to see the derelict buildings being repaired,” Moore said.

The law is not directed at any one person, entity or property owner, Rosenthal said. The proposed law is the first step in addressing a larger issue of the housing crisis, he said.

“This the first of a few of a few things that we have to do to think in a novel way to solve the unique problem Hudson has of vacant properties,” Rosenthal said. “We’re not Troy and we’re not New York City, where it is a problem on a much larger scale. We have a smaller stock of buildings and very large property owners here that makes the problem unique to Hudson. We have to think a little differently.”

The legislation is designed to improve the health and welfare of city residents by speeding the rehabilitation of vacant properties.

The law defines a vacant building as a building that is unoccupied or unsecured or unsafe building, or illegally occupied.

One-hundred-sixty-six properties were vacant as of March, city assessor Justin Maxwell said, and there were 54 commercial vacant parcels, he said. Thirty-seven properties were vacant but underwent minor improvements.

Owners must register vacant buildings no later than 30 days after any building becomes vacant, or 30 days after receiving a notice from Code Enforcement Office Craig Haigh, according to the proposed law. Registration forms will be available through the code enforcement office.

The fees per year are as follows, according to the proposed law:

• For the first year the building remains unoccupied, the fee is $250

• The second year, $500

• The third year, $1,000

• The fourth, $1,500

• The fifth, $2,000

Under the proposed law, the city code enforcement officer must present the Common Council with a list of vacant properties twice a year — by April 15 and Oct. 15.

To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to apurcell@thedailymail.net, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.