SARANAC LAKE - The village would be allowed to charge homeowners on their tax bill for the cost of removing garbage and debris from their properties under a proposed law being considered by the village Board of Trustees.
At its meeting Monday night, the board scheduled a public hearing on the so-called Nuisance Abatement and Cost Recovery Law. The hearing will be held at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 10 in the village board room on the second floor of the Harrietstown Town Hall.
The proposed law was drafted by village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans and Trustee Paul Van Cott. It says the outdoor storage and accumulation of trash and solid waste on private property, including every thing from construction and demolition debris to household garbage to discarded refrigerators, "threatens the health, safety and welfare of village residents."
It "creates a significant fire hazard, endangers the environment and groundwater, leads to infestation by insects, vermin or rodents, depreciates property values, and has a deteriorating and blighting effect upon the neighborhood and community."
The law prohibits homeowners from storing such garbage and debris outdoors, though it doesn't apply to trash stored in garbage cans and other containers. It allows village officials to inspect the property when they have "reasonable cause" to believe there is a violation, and allows the code enforcement officer to serve a written notice of violation or issue an appearance ticket to the property owner.
If a notice of violation is issued, the village board will hold a public hearing to determine whether the conditions on the property constitute a public nuisance. If that determination is made, the law gives the village the authority to go onto the property, remove the rubbish and dispose of it. Any costs the village incurs would then be assessed on the property's tax bill.
Speaking at Monday's meeting, Evans said the primary purpose of the law is to provide the village with a way to recoup the cost of dealing with garbage-strewn properties.
"The village has the right as a municipality under New York state law to abate nuisances, but this law would do two things," he said. "It allows the village to recoup the cost of the abatement, and it also provides a written procedure and process for determining when a nuisance is a nuisance, and gives the village board the authority to make that determination and direct staff to abate a nuisance."
There was no discussion about the law before the board agreed to set the public hearing date.
The proposal comes more than a year after the village took a Park Avenue property owner to court to try to get him to clean up his property. In June 2011, the village sent Steven Schnibbe a notice, telling him his property appeared to be in violation of the state uniform fire-prevention and building code. It later ordered him to clean up the garbage and debris in his yard and on his front porch. When he didn't respond, the village issued Schnibbe an appearance ticket for village court. He later reached an agreement with the village to clean up the property by a date in mid-October. The items on the yard and porch are still there, however.
"The situation did (improve), and it's slowly becoming a problem again," Evans told the Enterprise. He said the Schnibbe case and others like it were the motivation for the new law.
"Where we really run into problems are foreclosed properties, where you have a nuisance you want to get corrected like garbage, and trying to find who's responsible for it takes weeks or months," Evans said. "This would be an option where we'd say, 'We've got to get this taken care of,' and we'll sort it all out later."
Evans said the village has issued "multiple violations to multiple properties that are either in bankruptcy or foreclosure.
"There's some on French Hill; there's some on Helen Hill," he said. "We just have to figure out all the tools we could have at our disposal, and if we don't have them, we should get them. This is one of them."
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.