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Town board proposes law to improve property maintenance

The Skaneateles Town Board is hoping to prevent blight and public health or safety issues with the proposed new law on property maintenance. The law would allow the town to hire a third party to maintain a neglected property, such as the property pictured here on West Lake Road in Mandana, which has had issues for the past three years.

The Skaneateles Town Board is hoping to prevent blight and public health or safety issues with the proposed new law on property maintenance. The law would allow the town to hire a third party to maintain a neglected property, such as the property pictured here on West Lake Road in Mandana, which has had issues for the past three years. Photo by Jason Emerson.

— Under the proposed law, property owners who fail to act after notice from the town will be billed for all costs associated with property maintenance that the town authorizes to be completed from a third party contractor. If the owner does not pay, a lien will be put in the property and added to the property taxes.

Violations of the law would be punished by fines beginning at $100 or imprisonment up to six months, and would accumulate with every offense up to a $1,000 fine or imprisonment up to six months, or both. Continuous violations ultimately would accrue penalties on a daily basis.

“I think this is happening because of the economy,” Williams said. “In 20 years, I can’t remember this rash of problems.”

Williams said this law is aimed mainly at neglected properties for which the town cannot find and contact the owner to request the proper maintenance – such as on foreclosed or abandoned houses. Often in such cases, the foreclosing bank is supposed to maintain the property, but sometimes the town cannot find the responsible bank because the original property owner is still listed in the tax records.

Skaneateles Town Tax Collector Lori Milne said there have been so many foreclosures in the state recently that many neglected properties are “in line” for banks to get to the maintenance. “We don’t have as many foreclosures as other municipalities, but even one is too many,” she said.

Williams said she currently has at least three neglected properties in the town that need maintenance. In one case, she knows the original owner is dead, but she cannot find in the tax records who the responsible party is. In a second case, a house on West Lake Road, she knows the owner lives in California but he is not maintaining the property and this is the third year in a row that she has had to contact him about responsible property maintenance.

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