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Editorial: Vacant property list: How not to address community blight

Editorial: Vacant property list: How not to address community blight

Ends don't justify onerous means in Glenville

Not surprisingly, Glenville residents showed up at a public hearing last week to denounce a plan to create a vacant buildings registry. The plan seems more like a heavy-handed money grab.

If the town has a problem with buildings that are neglected by their owners to the point that they become shabby-looking, then address that. Don’t single out the owners of all vacant buildings — residential or commercial — and hit them with a hefty tax when they may not be causing any problem.

As proposed, the Glenville tax would assess owners of vacant single- and two-family homes $100 the first year, $200 the second year, and so forth, up to $500. Larger residences and commercial properties under 10,000 square feet would be assessed $200 the first year, rising by $200 per year until reaching $1,000. For buildings over 10,000 square feet, the tax would start at $300 and increase over five years to $1,500. In addition, owners would be required to disclose what they plan to do with their building, and how — subject to approval by the town building inspector.

As a homeowner at last Wednesday’s public hearing testified, selling a house in the current economic environment isn’t always easy: It can take a year or more. But chances are, when someone is trying to sell such a property, they’re going to keep it up — the better to attract offers. So why burden them by making them jump through bureaucratic hoops (registering the vacant building) and then pay added taxes?

The fact is, a house or commercial building can look good, or shabby, whether it’s occupied or not. What the town needs to do is tweak its laws so it can come down on all property owners who let their buildings and lots deteriorate — not just ones whose buildings are vacant.

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