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neighborhood improvement

May 28, 2013 - 11:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, neighborhood improvement.

About a dozen local landlords showed up at City Hall on Monday night for a City Council discussion about a possible local law that could mean fines for frequent police calls to local rentals.

Four of the landlords spoke during public comments against the idea, including Richard Siebert, James Pontillo and Thomas Mazerbo (pictured above).

Siebert said Batavia has gained a reputation for being a city that's very unfriendly to landlords, which drives down the value of rental properties and hurts the ability of the city to raise assessments.

He also said the subsidized housing complexes run by the city attracts all the good tenants, making it harder for landlords to attract the better tenants.

He also complained about police inaction when complaints are lodged about some residents.

"Let's talk about Lewis Place," Siebert said. "I have an apartment building down there and I've called city police when tenants have told me about drug deals and fights going on and they tell me, 'if you didn't see it personally, we can't do anything about it.' The city can clean it up. Put some undercover agents down there. Go in and clean it up."

Mazerbo said that it's very hard to get bad tenants evicted and if you succeed, they often trash the place and then city code officers give a landlord only 48 hours to clean things up. He said landlords should be given 10 to 30 days in those circumstances.

One version of the law under discussion was passed in the Town of Niagara and Mazerbo said, "I don't care about the Town of Niagara. That's over there. Something has got to be done here."

James Pontillo said the city is once again trying to turn the landlord into the bad guy.

"We're the ones investing in Batavia," Pontillo said. "We're the ones taking down a run down property and investing in it. I don't like being called a slumlord. I find it offensive. What we're doing with our money is -- rather than investing in gold or silver, we're investing in Batavia."

One of Pontillo's frustrations is that the police won't arrest former tenants for criminal mischief when they purposefully cause $5,000 in damage to a property once they know they're evicted.

Councilman Kris Doeringer took issue with the notion that landlords aren't responsible for the conduct of their tenants.

"You're the ones who rent to them," Doeringer said. "This is your business. You rent to them. Nobody made you. Today, nobody holds you accountable. That's not to say I'm unsympathetic to the investment you make in the community ... but there is a responsibility you have there somewhere and to put it all back on the city is not correct."

During his remarks, local residential property owners Jeremy Yasses and Terry Platt left the room, though Platt returned.

Brooks Hawley (inset photo) said his concern about this issue began while he was campaigning, walking precincts. The number one issue brought up by residents, Hawley said, was misbehaving tenants.

City Manager Jason Molino, Hawley said, asked that addressing the issue be held off until after the budget was approved. Once it was, Hawley, Molino and Pier Cipollone met to discuss options.

In researching options, Molino found laws in Cheektowaga and Niagara that hold landlords accountable for excessive complaints about the conduct of tenants.

According to Hawley, the laws in those other jurisdictions are meant as discussion starters about how to address the problem in Batavia. He said he's looking for something that holds tenants accountable and puts some responsibility on landlords for how their properties effect their neighborhoods.

There was no action taken by the council Monday, and though Cipollone suggested forming a committee that would include council members and landlords to study the issue, no firm plan was put in place.

Molino said it's a very complex issue and no single law is going to necessarily bring about neighborhood revitalization.

"It comes back to the root of the issue," Molino said. "If the tenants don't care about the neighborhood, you can't make them care. If the neighbors want to have their community back, they will have to take their neighborhoods back. You can't use code enforcement and you can't use police enforcement to force people to take back their neighborhoods."

Councilman John Canale called the idea of fining landlords for tenant behavior "absurd."

"I'll never support any talk like that," Canale said. "We talking about asking landlords to become the police and we already have a police department."

May 28, 2013 - 1:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, neighborhood improvement.

To help cut down on problems with some of the residential renters in the City of Batavia, two council members are asking the council to consider a law that would license landlords and fine property owners who rent to nuisance tenants.

The proposal is on tonight's City Council agenda. The meeting begins at 7.

The proposal grew out of conversations between council members Brooks Hawley and Pier Cipollone and City Manager Jason Molino regarding problems in the Holland Avenue neighborhood.

Molino did some research and found that the Town of Niagara and the Town of Cheektowaga recently created a licensing scheme for landlords.

There are also fines for landlords if the police are called to a residence frequently.

Molino's memo on the law states, "It appears that this legislation attempts to hold landlords accountable for tenant behavior as well as provide easier methods for landlords to evict uncooperative tenants that are compromising the character of neighborhoods."

In Niagara, officials concluded that renting out residential rental property is a business and should be licensed like many other types of business.

Once licensed, officials will have a better paper trail on who the landlord of record is and then notify the landlord of potential problems.

Officials will track police calls to rental properties and three nuisance or criminal complaint calls in a year will result in a $50 fine; a fourth, $100; a fifth, $500 and each additional incident thereafter, $1,000 each.

The legislation in Niagara states that "residential rental properties may become a haven for various criminal or disruptive actives that can result in disorder in our community and affect the quality of life of others in the Town of Niagara."

December 13, 2012 - 4:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, neighborhood improvement.

A housing rehabilitation program for moderate to low income homeowners, funded by a community block grant, has been a big success and the city would like to do it again, according to City Manager Jason Molino.

The original plan was to provide rehab assistance to 15 homes in the city with the $400,000 grant, but 19 houses were repaired, according to a report given to the city council on Monday.

"This is part of a bigger effort," Molino said. "Housing rehabilitation is one part of our approach to neighborhood revitalization. While only 19 properties were improved, that's 19 properties that might not otherwise be improved."

The city received 80 inquiries and reviewed 66 applications.

The rehab projects including roof replacement, porch replacement, plumbing and electrical repair and facade improvements.

Individual grants were limited to $24,500, but some homeowners were able to chip in some of their own money and go a bit beyond what the maximum grant would allow.

Jodie Freese administered the program for the city and put out each job to competitive bid. Of the seven contractors selected for work, six were based in Genesee County.

About 96 percent of the $364,522 spent on rehab stayed in the county.

Other costs associated with the program included $14,800 for a lead-based paint consultant and $25,435 for program delivery and administration. The city contributed $4,757 to help cover the costs.

The grant originates with the federal government but is administered by the state's Office of Community Renewal.

"We're very satisfied with the results," Molino said. "It was a great project and hopefully we can do it again in the future."

Photo: Provided by the city of a residence on Hutchins Street.

June 3, 2011 - 1:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, neighborhood improvement.

Batavia Police released further information on the people arrested during the May 19 neighborhood enforcement sweep we reported on yesterday.

Jacqueline R. Garrett, 32, 9850 Old Creek Road., Alexander. Arrest on a charge of criminal sale of marijuana, 5th, after Local Drug Task Force members reportedly witnessed a transaction at 99 Jackson St.

Edgar Perez, 26, 110 Jackson St., Batavia. Arrested on a superior court arrest warrant out of Orleans County.

Joseph C. Wind, 41, 5469 Horseshoe Lake Road., Batavia. Arrested on charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, criminal use of drug paraphernalia, 2nd, and aggravated unlicensed operation, 3rd. All as the result of a traffic stop for driving without headlights. A passenger in the car was a subject being supervised by, and of interest to, NYS Parole.

Thomas J. Mitchell, 21, 6 Oak St., Batavia. Arrested on charges of  criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, unlawful possession of marijuana and aggravated unlicensed operation, 3rd. Mitchell was reportedly picked up as the result of a traffic stop in connection with the car allegedly attempting to avoid police by entering BOCES property after leaving an address of interest to NYS Parole.

June 2, 2011 - 10:08am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, neighborhood improvement.

A combined law enforcement task force conducted a sweep in the City of Batavia on May 19 looking for subjects wanted on warrants and to check for possible parole and probation violations.

In all, four people were arrested and six people were allegedly found in violation of probation restrictions.

The sweep, conducted by the Neighborhood Enforcement Team Detail, was part of the city's strategic plan for public safety, according to Chief Randy Baker.

Participating in the task force were officers and detectives of the Batavia Police Department, members of the Sheriff's Office, city code enforcement officers, City fire personnel, members of the District Attorney's Office, Local Drug Task Force detectives and the Department of Social Services.

One person was arrested for allegedly selling marijuana on Jackson Street.

Two people people were arrested on felony warrants.

One parolee was arrested for allegedly possessing a controlled substance and driving without a license.

The names of those arrested have not been released.

In all, 42 probation contacts were made. Four people were found allegedly in violation of curfew. Two individuals were allegedly found in possession of knives, ammunition, marijuana and K2 synthetic marijuana.

Parole officers checked six locations for parolees and searched three residences.

Baker said there will be additional sweeps by the task force in order to address neighborhood issues.

August 27, 2010 - 7:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, neighborhood improvement.

New York has awarded a $400,000 grant to the City of Batavia to help low-income homeowners rehabilitate their residences.

The city applied for the grant from the New York State Office of Community Renewal after receiving more than 60 applications for rehabilitation help. The show of interest from low-income homeowners was essential to the grant process.

With the funds, the city will be able to help 15 to 20 property owners rehabilitate their homes.

Very-low income homeowners (under $24,500 annual income) will be able to receive up to $24,500 to pay for repairs, and moderate-low income households can receive 75-percent reimbursement on rehabilitation, up to $18,375.

The homes must be owner-occupied.

As soon as the final paperwork is received from the state, the city will notify all applicants on how to proceed with their request for assistance.

July 12, 2010 - 10:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, taxes, neighborhood improvement.

With unanimous conscent Monday night, the Batavia City Council agreed to move forward with a plan to provide some tax relief to homeowners who undertake renovations.

jason_molino.jpgIn September there will likely be a public hearing on the plan, which will provide a tax credit over an eight-year period on the increased assessed value caused by improvements.

"This is important because, even if you do improvements, the value doesn’t necessarily change, but if the value does change because of that improvement, you can get an exemption on the increase of the assessment," City Manager Jason Molino said.

The exemption is possible by state law, which allows for a municipal government to institute the tax credit. The credit can be spread over eight years, with no tax on the increased assessed value, and 12.5 percent of tax on the increase being added each year.

The homeowner must make at least a $3,000 improvement, and the assessor must find that the improvement, not some other factor, caused the increased assessment. 

bill_cox_assessment.jpg"I think this is long over due," Councilman Bill Cox said. "I think it will encourage people to improve their homes and it’s a sign that the City Council wants to encourage people to improve their neighborhoods."

Councilman Frank Ferrando also spoke in favor of the tax exemption.

"I like the idea that it’s the community investing in itself," Ferrando said.

January 26, 2010 - 7:52am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, neighborhood improvement.

A majority of Batavia City Council members want city staff to continue studying a plan to turn over houses that have become delinquent in their taxes to a non-profit organization for rehabilitation.

Setting up such a process -- whether it involves creating a new non-profit corporation run by the city or working directly with Habitat for Humanity -- will require additional staff research time, legal expense and potentially staff time to manage any new program.

Councilman Tim Buckley wanted to table the proposal, saying the city has too many other bigger priorities, but the consensus of the council during last night's conference meeting was to ask City Manager Jason Molino to conduct further research.

Council President Marianne Clattenburg said she saw the program as an opportunity to prevent more housing units from falling into low-end rental units and become better maintained owner-occupied homes.

Councilman Sam Barone, who works with Habitat for Humanity, sometimes has trouble buying a house at auction because they get out bid.

A partnership on housing rehabilitation would allow the designated non-profit to buy the house before it goes to auction.

However, the council also discussed the fact that nothing prevents Habitat from reaching out to a tax-delinquent property owner before a house goes up for auction and paying the back taxes in exchange for the property deed.

Only about three homes per year fall into delinquncy and go up for auction.

July 14, 2009 - 12:59am
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.

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