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July 14, 2009 - 12:59am

Council gets testy -- wants quick action on ordinance to clean up properties

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, neighborhood improvement.

bob bialkowski.jpgWhen Batavia City Manager Jason Molino suggested Monday night that an ordinance proposed by the Neighborhood Improvement Committee to force landlords to better maintain their properties couldn't be quickly implemented, he found stiff opposition from council members who are tired of repeated constituent complaints about poorly maintained properties.

"We can't have any more bull," said Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian. "We can't push this aside any longer."

Some council members wanted Molino and his staff to act on the proposal within 30 to 90 days, even though the NIC's request gives the council until the end of the year to implement a new ordinance.

"This is not a turnkey piece of legislation," Molino said. "There is a lot of staff impact."

The proposed legislation would require city staff to inspect every rental property every 36 months, and every owner-occupied home each time it is sold. Once inspection requirements were met, a Certificate of Occupancy would be issued.

Items that could be inspected would include smoke alarms, CO2 detectors, plumbing fixtures, heating, appliances, wiring, safe exits and that the exterior is safe and sanitary.

Additionally, landlords would be required to register tenants with the city and ensure an agent of the property resided in Genesee County.

Molino maintained that it would take a good deal of research and study to determine the impacts on city resources, and whether additional resources would be needed.

Every council member spoke to the need for quick action to deal with a long festering issue in the city, but Councilman Frank Ferrando pointed out that NIC requested a deadline for action that might allow Molino enough time for research and ensure a new ordinance could be brought forward in a reasonable amount of time.

NIC requested that the council vote on a new ordinance by the end of the year.

"Let's follow the recommendation of the committee and give Jason and his staff the time necessary to do it right," Ferrando said.

After a bit more debate, the council agreed to instruct City Attorney George Van Nest and Molino time to figure out the impacts, write the proposed law -- which could include implementing the proposal in stages, such as tenant registration first, and annual inspections later -- and bring back a recommendation to the Council before current terms that expire this year end.

Pictured: Bob Bialkowski, who initially raised the idea of the proposed ordinance with NIC.

Gabor Deutsch
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I understand about the need to be tough on homeowners and/or landlords (rental) properties on the outside appearance but this is getting a bit too, intrusive for renters and owners. I think this will cost taxpayers more money to hire people to inspect, rent to increase, and more landlords and homeowners to sell properties due to financial or legal issues. Just what we need, more FORSALE signs on lawns here in Batavia. More people will move out of Batavia, and then we can enjoy the urban blight like Buffalo has now. Good idea that will help raise the value of everyones property !
Lucille Van Son
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Why don't they just toughen up the laws that they have now and really inforce them and then go from there.
Peter O'Brien
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Are we going to demand that parking lots and driveways be paved more often as well? How about paint? Many houses in Batavia could use a scrap and paint job. If I choose a color that is an eye sore like on Time Bomb Tattoo will I be fined for that? Will the City demand that my car be in good repair to and not look like a junker even if it passed inspection?
Lucille Van Son
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The city already will notify you if the house needs to be painted, and gives you a timeframe in which to get it done. That is why some of the houses on Walnut and S. Main were painted outragious colors a few years back, from what I understand.
John Roach
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Four years ago Council had a local law to take care of this up for a vote. Mr. Ferrando had it put aside and it has never come again. Now, when another law is being considered, he wants to delay again. I hope Mr. Bialkowski doesn't let him get away with it.
Tyler Hall
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Lol,Mr Roach obviously doesn't like Mr. Ferrando. Time after time, shots are taken at him.
John Roach
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Tyler, Truth in posting: I ran against Mr. Ferrando, and six others, four years ago on a 3rd party line (and lost big time). And, he did kill the "slum lord" law. If it was not worded right, as he said, he had four (4) years to fix it. And, as posted above, he wants to wait on this new one.
Tyler Hall
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Gotcha. I don't know you or this Ferrando guy. Totally unbiased, but I just picked up on it over the last few weeks in certain posts. Nothing bad about it.
Tyler Hall
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but back to the main issue, I'm totally cool on this proposal. This is regarding the safety and welfare of citizens. However, I'm totally against all that weed removal or the matters that don't pertain to the safety of people.
Gabor Deutsch
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So I guess everyone is ready for government to intrude in their home, dwelling, castle ? Better not have more than five empty boxes in a room because that's a fire hazzard and a fine. Too many extension cords, any electrical outlet near a sink or water supply must have a built in breaker, Pipes are sweating, must be a leak. Failed Fined Jailed ! "Items that could be inspected would include smoke alarms, CO2 detectors, plumbing fixtures, heating, appliances, wiring, safe exits and that the exterior is safe and sanitary". What about HUD and their approved apartments ? HUD passes but City doesnt ? how is that gonna work ? Too bad all the eyesore weeds werent smokeable coz we wouldnt have any problem with removal ! LOL.
Beth Kinsley
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Gabor - not only am I opposed to the intrusion but I don't see where the city has the resources and the qualified personnel to do this. They are proposing having firemen do the inspections but I don't believe that this is part of their training, not to mention in their contract. Someone is also going to have to keep records on the thousands of tenants, inspections, etc. Is that going to be done by the staff that the City currently has or will they be hiring someone new to do this?
Mark Potwora
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How long can you keep xmas lights up...I notice the pine tree on main street between Bank of America and the Insurance company still has lights on it...Who's going to fine the city...plus the tree looks like its dying..
Charlie Mallow
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Beth, why do you seem to be so much against the idea of using the employee’s that we have to do the work that needs to be done? Especially, since we are talking about safely inspections. I know I have already told you that this is done in other communities, why not here? For those of you who think we need a whole department comprised of professional firefighters, why not look for a value add? Proactive, inspections to keep our homes safe seems like a good use of the department, don’t you think?
Charlie Mallow
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Mark, I don't see a law for Christmas lights on the books. Should I work on that before the end of the year for you?
Beth Kinsley
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Has anyone looked to see if these "other communities" had to train their fire department to do these inspections? I just don't see where they are qualified to do electrical inspections without some sort of additional training. Also, would we have to re-negotiate the fire department's contract to have these additional duties added? Does the City's existing personnel have the time to do all of the extra duties that will be asked of them? I just don't want to have to hire additional personnel to do the inspections and/or the recordkeeping because if over half of Batavia's properties are rentals, this would be an enormous task.
Mark Potwora
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Beth they just agreed to hired an extra code officer ..
Charlie Mallow
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Mark, that's a replacement for an employee who is leaving. Not a new one. Beth, new tasks require training. City staff will shift focus with the desire of the citizens. From what we on Council see, a large vocal majority of city residents expect to live in a clean, safe city. Council is reacting to that.
Peter O'Brien
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So if the citizens say jump off a bridge charlie are you going to do that? Council members are elected to temper the cries of the masses not to appease them.
Charlie Mallow
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Peter, asking for clean, safe neighborhoods is not an outragous demand but, then you know that. Most people would say it is a right.
Richard Gahagan
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Why not just enforce existing building codes more agressively?
Tyler Hall
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Are weeds or uncut lawns unclean? or impose a physical danger to people?
Charlie Mallow
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We are, the laws were created for a quicker turn around of existing code. City staff wastes too much time chasing problem properties.
Charlie Mallow
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Tyler, yes of course.
Tyler Hall
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Sir, can you please explain to me the hazardous conditions that weeds and uncut lawns present to people.
Beth Kinsley
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Charlie - I am not trying to be difficult but I am just afraid that Council is going to push this ordinance through with no real plan as to how they will implement it. Who will be doing the training of the fire department and no one has ever answered the question as to whether this is even allowed per the contract? It seems like it would have to be quite in depth if we expect them to be able to inspect plumbing fixtures, heating, appliances, wiring, etc. And all of the record keeping that would be involved? You say "City staff will shift focus with the desire of the citizens". What exactly would they shift their focus from? I'm sure if you asked any one of them, they would say that they already have a full plate and if they had to "shift focus" to these additional tasks, what tasks would no longer be done?
Bob Price
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Why don't you go after the contractor who did that horrible work on our "beautiful" City Centre??????Must be the city wants one if the newest buildings in Batavia to look like crap.....it's been like that for years......no, let's go after taxpayers!!!More people travel Main St. and see half painted light poles,weeds between the bricks on the less traveled corners,than people who travel side streets.It's amazing how many for sale signs are up around the city-it's always been a few that will ruin it for everybody.I see quite a few vacant homes(or foreclosure ones) with weeds and poor upkeep.
Howard B. Owens
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Tyler, easy, later in the summer, when they dry out, huge fire hazard.
John Roach
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You can bet dimes to dollars that inspection service will come up at the contract talks with the Fire Department. When you places like the City of Tonawanda, have a half paid-half volunteer force, things might have to change around here. It might even prevent a volunteer force in the future.
Charlie Mallow
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Beth, your getting ahead of things. Council approved the NIC's request and asked the City Manager and Attorney to come up with a plan for implementation. Tyler, I am not going to debate societal norms of cleanliness with you. It is what it is.
Tyler Hall
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I love to sit here and debate with ya'll, but I'm going to make society a safer place and go outside. I'm digging up all my lawn. There will no longer be any grass or weeds outside my house because I just found out how unsafe it is. I'm going to bulldoze all of it and put down clay and sand. Throw in some rocks while I'm at it too. Big boulders.
Beth Kinsley
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Fair enough Charlie. I'll slow down. I'm just afraid that in the long run this is going to cost money.
Tyler Hall
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I'm going to take the catalytic converter out of my car so all the trees dye too.
Gabor Deutsch
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Tyler, Just make sure the rocks you use are clean and safe ! Wash them and make sure they are round with no jagged edges !
Tyler Hall
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Nah, it's fun watching little children play on giant rocks with giant jagged edges in them. Certainly, they can't play in grass or weeds because I no longer will have any. Grass and weeds are unsafe so I'm going to turn my front lawn into a stone quarry. Would this violate any eye-sore laws?
Laura Scarborough
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I live near a rental property that was not cutting the lawn, had 2 junk cars and because the grass was high, were able to put their household trash about the yard to include used diapers. I would think this is a hazard both fire and rodents. Our town code inspector was alerted to it and now it's being taken care of. So, yes, there are some properties that need this measure.
Howard B. Owens
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I'm seeing two themes emerge here -- people who want to live in a city that is clean, safe and prosperous, and those who want to see it disintegrate into a dirty, ratty, crime-infested, poverty-ridden slum. I mean, if you think people shouldn't be required to keep their property up to some minimum standard for the benefit of the whole community, why do we even bother paying for police and fire? Let's just save a whole lot of money and bother, lay them all off and let everything go to ruin.
Gabor Deutsch
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I know that certain codes are being enforced because my Landlord mowed the lawn, trimmed the hedges and filled a ditch. Usually the lawn gets mowed twice a month and he has done it twice in less than three weeks !
Beth Kinsley
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Howard - I agree that people should be required to keep their property up to some minimum standard for the benefit of the whole community. I take pride in my property and have spent a great deal of time and money on making it look nice. I am just concerned that this new proposed ordinance hasn't been very well though out as to how it will be implemented. Many of us can't afford for our tax bills to be any higher and it seems like this could potentially cost a lot of money to implement e.g. negotiating a new contract with the firemen that will be inspecting. And it is my understanding that there are already laws on the books that would cover a lot of these issues (uncut grass, etc.) that are just not being enforced.
Tyler Hall
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Laura, was the high grass causing this problem or was it the diapers themselves? Maybe facilitate it. But why don't you actually address the problem at hand; the diapers? If your scum neighbors were digging wholes and dumping diapers into them would just suggest outlawing shovels?
Lucille Van Son
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Well then, they must be enforcing them in your neighborhood because I have seen things elsewhere that need attention badly
Andrew Erbell
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How about we start by holding everyone to the same standard? Perhaps instead of celebrating the innovator of the small business incubator on a regular basis and bending over backward to appease their every want, demand they maintain their properties just like Joe Homeowner?
Gabor Deutsch
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Howard, thats funny. Its kinda true with the complaints. I just feel its a bad time to go hardcore on properties when everyone is having a hard time with money right now. Its no excuse to let properties go to ruin but where the hell was all this concern before the economy tanked? I think thats why people are getting pissed off now. As a renter I am sick and tired of getting inspections and preparing to move, having things fixed getting inspected having to move rent goes up getting inspected having to move......
Tyler Hall
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"those who want to see it disintegrate into a dirty, ratty, crime-infested, poverty-ridden slum. " You're completely right Howard. That's my goal. When I wake up every morning I think to myself, "How can I make Batavia a dirtier, rattier place with more crime and poverty?" .......Now I'm obviously joking, but if that was a real question ,I think the best answer would be to grow tall grass. 9-11 terrorist attacks??? Nah, tall grass and weeds seem to me like a more dangerous weapon.
Richard Gahagan
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Get off the computer and go mow the lawn now and while your at it pick up the trash and then wash the freakin windows. Tomorrow go by some paint and put a fresh coat on the house. When your done check back for further instructions on how not to live like a scumbag.
Tyler Hall
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Hey Richard, I hope you're addressing me with that comment. I really do. Please clarify yourself.
Richard Gahagan
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Pretty clear and simple advise for anyone too lazy to take care of their own home, further instruction will be provided free of charge.
Daniel Jones
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I agree with Beth and Tyler, we need to make sure that we're not getting in too far. We're talking about eliminating the fire department, raising taxes and making major cutbacks across the board. The question has to be asked, can we afford to be more stringent with our enforcement? Again, as Beth asked, will the firemen used for inspection need to be re-contracted? Can the firemen, whom work extremely hard and around the clock already, handle the burdensome task of having home and property inspections to do as well? Will this require the need to hire more city staff?
Karen Miconi
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I think the idea is Socializm. How is it legal to intrude into someones home, in every room, to determine if its safe. Thats why I'm married. My husband and I work together to make our home safe, and our quality of life what it is. We are adults, free, living in the US. If this goes through, it will be interesting to see the results of the inspections of city officials homes, bedrooms, closets, bathrooms ect. Hey we will see how they like their lives and privacy intruded on. Ill buy tickets for that one. I am against this idea for alot of the same reasons stated above. Now their are some exceptions, like the homeowners and renters who are slobs. Then I agree something should be done. But what is being proposed is rediculious. Just for the record, last I checked there were no slums in Batavia....
John Roach
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This is new law is not for private homes, lived in by the owner. This is for rental units, many of which we all know are run time slums. Renting will require you to meet certain standards, just like many other businesses are required to do. However, just because you have laws on the books, doesn’t mean they will be enforced. The city staff will do what Council wants them to, so this year, at election time, vote either for people that will enforce the law, or the ones who want things to stay the same.
Karen Miconi
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John with all due respect, we are renters, of 15 years, in the same half a house, and take these new rules as an insult aimed at renters in general. Why only renters?? Thats all Im saying. For some reason, it really ticks me off, that renters are considered 2nd class citizens, slum dwellers if you will. And again, for the repeat code offenders, yes do something, but why not just enforce the existing rules?? Make all home owners, landlords, renters,{Tenants sounds to slummish} participate, so it is fair, for everyone. Otherwise it is favoritizm. Tell me you understand my point of view John. Well enough said. How about I come down and apply for the code enforcement position. Put in a good word for me John :)LOL Ill be sure to do a good job.

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