City Council approves vacant building fee hikes and construction projects

They were passed during Monday night's City Council meeting
Notices are taped to the front door of a vacant house at 262 Bradley Blvd. in Schenectady.
Notices are taped to the front door of a vacant house at 262 Bradley Blvd. in Schenectady.

SCHENECTADY — City Council members unanimously voted through an ordinance on Monday that will raise fees when it comes to registering vacant properties in the city.

City Council members previously said the increased fees are meant to help curb the number of vacant and blighted properties in the city. City Councilman John Polimeni previously said vacant properties have contributed to an approximately 1 to 2 percent drop in property values. He also said that they can cost a municipality an average of $45,000 annually, which includes the cost of emergency responses and demolitions.

Mayor Gary McCarthy previously said that based on numbers the city worked out with the University at Albany’s Center for Technology in Government, a vacant building can cost a municipality more than $60,000 over a seven-year period. It’s a figure that includes costs such as Police, Fire and Code departments calls, demolition costs and loss of property tax revenues.

Fees for registering vacant properties will now be $2,500 in the first year, $3,000 in the second year,$3,500 in the third year, $5,000 for the fourth year, and $5,500 for the fifth year as well as each year after that for as long as the building remains vacant.

Each year will carry an additional monitoring fee.

City officials have previously said a homeowner could avoid putting their building on a registry if it is well-maintained and kept in good condition. But they’ve also said it would depend on how hard a property owner was trying to sell.

Previously, the fees for registering a vacant building were $1,050 in the first year, $1,550 in the second year, $2,050 in the third year, $3,550 in the fourth year and $4,050 in the fifth year.

Owners of vacant properties will be required to provide a demolition plan with a completion date of up to 180 days. If there is a plan in place to rehabilitate the home, it must be done within a year. But the city could grant a property owner an extension.

If a building will be vacant for up to 90 days, owners must provide a plan to secure the building and make sure it’s in compliance with city codes, according to the registry. A reason must also be provided for why it is vacant.

If not, the building is considered a nuisance after more than 90 days, according to the registry.

City Council President Ed Kosiur previously said the registry has generated $400,000 annually in fees for the city.

The council also approved two contracts for construction projects on Monday.

This includes a $766,860 contract to repair retaining walls on Green and Weaver streets, as well as the repair of the concrete aprons at the Schenectady Fire Department’s stations 1 and 2.

The second contract was for $1.3 million, and included the paving of sections of Broadway and Guilderland Avenue. The city’s share for those projects, though, will only be around $246,000 since the city was previously awarded an approximately $1.1 million grant from the Capital District Transportation Committee.

Both contracts were awarded to Callanan Industries.

City Finance Commissioner Anthony Ferrari previously said both of the contracts will be paid for through the city’s capital budget.

There was no timetable set for when the roads will be repaved. The city had hoped to do some of the work in the Broadway area before it gets to cold since it sees a heavy amount of traffic.

Independent City Councilman Vince Riggi said during the meeting on Monday that he was upset Guilderland Avenue wasn’t going to be paved until next year. He said he had been told numerous times it would be included in this year’s paving program, and he passed that information on to residents.

“Myself and everybody else that has dealt with this are very disappointed to hear this,” Riggi said.

McCarthy said after the meeting that it is unclear what will happen with Guilderland Avenue this year. He said they try to prioritize certain streets each year, but the decisions that are made don’t always make everyone happy.

“We’re still going to try and get Guilderland done this year, but it may not get done until next year,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said he wasn’t sure if they could do an overlay on Guilderland Avenue, but Riggi said that wouldn’t cut it as he called it “a waste of money.”

“It needs to be done and it needs to be done right,” Riggi said.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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