|The fence keeps people off 69 Phila St., but not pigeons, who|
obviously do their business on the porch.
Living in walking distance to downtown Saratoga Springs evokes images of neighborhoods where people nod to passersby from the porches of lovely hundred-year-old homes.
And then there are houses like the one across the street from mine: vacant for decades (except for occasional street people and wildlife), with once-beautiful woodwork hopelessly decayed, long stretches of weeds poking through the rotted porch, and a shrubbery-shrouded side serving as an impromptu toilet for people headed home from the bars.
A law to discourage property from going to pot was adopted in February 2013. I’m trying to find out who it applies to and how it’s being enforced. Soon as I do, I’ll let you know.
|The owners of 32 Park Place, uninhabited|
for decades, said this will be their next project.
The monstrosity on my street is one of an estimated 50 vacant properties in Saratoga Springs – less than 1 percent of the parcels in the city, but eyesores that have been ignored with impunity for too long.
The owners of the house near mine, Helen and Harold Simpson, own other downtown properties. Two are vacant buildings on Phila Street that they hoped to split into three lots instead of two. The zoning board in 2005 reasonably rejected their request. Almost a decade later, the two boarded-up houses, with pigeon crap covering the porches, remain a disgusting reminder that nothing really prevents people from buying property and letting them go to seed.
Another reminder appeared in recent property transactions showing the same couple bought yet another empty downtown house, this one on High Rock Avenue, for $266,774. More property when other parcels are yet to be made habitable? I’ve complained to the city about the Park Place house as a private citizen, but the issue of property left to rot is really a public issue.
Last month, I sent the city a request for any records documenting complaints, city responses, inspections, violations, building permit requests – anything – related to the house on my street. A few days later, in what I was assured was strictly coincidence, the owner called me for the first time ever, with the news that they planned to pursue permits for renovations on Park Place this summer and suggesting I check out their latest completed projects on the West Side.
Then, about a week ago, I was bemoaning the presence of boarded-up houses with the head of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, who mentioned the city has a law requiring vacant properties to be registered. So I filed another request with the city, this time asking for all records pertaining to enforcement of the law. The city has acknowledged these requests and promises a response in accordance with the state Freedom of Information Law.
The city vacant property law, reportedly prompted by a fiasco on Franklin Street, in which a historically significant house deteriorated beyond repair, was adopted in February 2013. The law notes that vacant buildings “are likely to become both unsightly and unsafe (and) quickly develop a negative effect on their surrounding neighborhoods as well as on the entire city.”
The law requires a $250 annual registration fee for each vacant residential structure (and $500 for non-residential), along with proof of safety inspections, a written intentions for the premises and other information. Owners are supposed to register on their own or within 30 days of getting a notice to do so from the city. Scofflaws face a penalty.
Is anyone registered? I’ll keep you posted on the city’s answers. And if you know of any vacant property that ought to be registered, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org.