Thursday January 10, 2013

ZEKE WRIGHT

Staff Writer

HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. -- An ad hoc committee working to identify possible changes to zoning and nuisance law in the village of Hoosick Falls recommended keeping current law on the books and seeing how things progress in the next three months.

The reevaluation comes as property complaints routinely take up most of the village board's time at meetings. Over recent months, trustees David Borge and Jeremy Driscoll and Deputy Mayor Paul Haynes Jr. have reviewed zoning law, particularly a 1992 amendment related to rental and multi-family properties, and also a 2009 nuisance law. Along with the village attorney and building inspector, the group looked at whether those ordinances met current needs.

"The village has changed, the population has changed -- has zoning law met the needs of the village?" Borge asked at Tuesday's meeting. He said the committee determined "most times it has" -- but sometimes it has not.

Through most of last year, with new personnel, officials placed a renewed emphasis on code enforcement ranging from too-tall grass to unsafe buildings. A recent uptick in home sales in the village, mirroring broader optimism in the area, is cause to see how that effort continues, Borge said.

The trustee said that current nuisance law gave the municipality the tools to hold property owners accountable but the ordinances had not always been consistently enforced. Compliance would "go a long way" toward improvement, he said, making "properties more salable (and having) a positive effect all around."

But going hand in hand with enforcement is community awareness and education. Contacted Wednesday, Borge said the village was taking a "positive approach."

"The building inspector isn't someone you need to avoid. He's there to help."

Under current law, the village has the ability to fine property owners and bring outstanding code violations to court. Following along a points system, the village can ultimately revoke a building's certificate of occupancy. But trustees and Building Inspector Ed Holland say the municipality would rather work with property owners.

Compounding matters are rental units that sometimes have expanded the number of apartments in nonconforming use areas since the 1992 zoning amendment, which limited where apartments can be developed.

Over the next three months, Borge said the plan was to allow Holland to continue his normal inspection routine as tenants changed or buildings sold. Through that routine, a portion of properties could be economically reassessed over a period of time.

Meanwhile, officials said anyone can lodge a complaint over a possible safety or health violation.

"You can call and you can complain," said village Clerk Ann Marie Bornt.

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