Pleasantville officials are proposing a new property maintenance law to address how to maintain abandoned and neglected properties and prevent them from posing hazardous conditions to the public.
Pleasantville Building Inspector Robert Hughes said last week that there were a handful of houses no longer occupied, with overgrown foliage and accumulating snow in the winter, which have created safety issues.
Generally, this situation occurs when vacant properties have been foreclosed but the bank has yet to take control. Currently, the village has no authority to clean up the blight.
“We are trying to get a mechanism in place where the village can actually have somebody come in and maintain (an abandoned) property by cutting the grass in the spring and summer and shovel the snow in the winter,” Hughes said during the board’s Aug. 26 work session. “Maintenance of that nature wouldn’t have to be done all the time, just enough to eliminate potential hazards to the public.”
To date, the village’s four abandoned and neglected properties are 136 Manville Rd., 278 Washington Ave., 79 Grandview Ave. and 588 Washington Ave.
The village’s attorneys from Keane & Beane, P.C. in White Plains have recommended the village adopt a property maintenance law to “ensure that structures are maintained in a safe and blight-free manner.” As in most towns and villages, Pleasantville’s building code references the New York State Building Code; however, the state code doesn’t have a property maintenance chapter specific to a village. Villages use the state code in tandem with the local zoning laws.
“We would utilize both to elaborate on the specifics of unsafe buildings from our current code,” explained Hughes. “It would actually give us the authority to use the property maintenance code that specifies condemning a building to be unsafe.”
Discussion of a property maintenance law was triggered by complaints from the Bedford Road School, which is near 136 Manville Rd., a house that’s been vacant for a about a year. School personnel are concerned with safe passage of students who walk by the house, especially with snow accumulation in the winter.
“The only abandoned property we’ve gotten complaints about is the one next to the school,” Hughes said.
Generally, if there are property violations the building department issues a notice letter; if there’s no response, it issues an order to remedy, followed by a summons if there’s still no response.
If a property maintenance law is adopted and owners have not responded to the building department, Hughes would approach the board with a safety concern about an unkempt property and ask for the board’s approval to hire an outside contractor to take care of the property. The costs would be passed on to the property owner, and if unpaid, a lien would be placed on the property tax and the village would eventually be reimbursed.
“The plan is to give you some teeth to enforce this kind of law. You should be empowered to make these decisions,” Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer told Hughes.
Hughes said for the owners of abandoned properties who are nowhere to be found, a violation is meaningless.
“They’re not paying the taxes so they don’t care and the bank doesn’t officially own it yet,” he said.
The village will make specific recommendations to its attorneys on how to tailor a new law for Pleasantville.
“It’s not something that we are going to use frivolously, just in extreme cases, especially by the school where the snow isn’t being shoveled,” Hughes said.