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Town of Brant looks to cleanup deteriorating buildings

The Town of Brant is becoming more proactive in its efforts to clean up dilapidated, deteriorating and/or abandoned properties in the town.

The board, alongside Code Enforcement Officer Gary Brecker, recently discussed possible courses of action at the June 11 town board meeting.

“The buildings discussed were the ones that no one would accept responsibility for, and by that I mean, banks aren’t foreclosing, so they won’t accept responsibility,” Brecker said. “We have had a few landlords ask us what they should do in cases like this, and that’s the reasoning behind this discussion.”

Supervisor Leonard Pero also expressed frustrations in the town’s inability to legally do much about the properties in question.

“I’ve had a number of people comment on this, especially the property at the corner of Versailles Road and Route 249, as well as a couple of other places throughout the Town,” said Pero. “We’ve been trying to do something about this for quite a while and because of the inactivity of the banks and the inactivity of the people who have the properties, we’re hampered legally, and can’t really do anything. The thing about it is we’ve been waiting too long for these properties to be cleaned up and I think we should be looking into doing something, perhaps as radical as this, and I wanted to take this opportunity to open it up to the Board.”

Pero also read aloud an email received from Assemblyman Michael Kearns of the 142nd District regarding possible avenues for cleaning up said properties. The email stated that there’s currently a pair of foreclosure bills (Good Neighbor Bill & Good Faith Bill) in the State Assembly and Senate, and while Kearns stated the bills are ‘unlikely to be passed at this time,’ there are ‘other methods that can be used to bring relief from problems with bank owned depreciating and deteriorating abandoned and foreclosed properties.’

“I wanted to share a strategy that worked when I was a councilman in South Buffalo and more recently in the Town of Cheektowaga,” Kearns said in the email. “The strategy is essentially one of disclosing at the actual residences who the banks are of properties that have fallen into disrepair to the general public. Also, my office employed a strategy of finding a bank that is responsible with respect to foreclosed buildings and maintains the best practices and then shift city, village, and/or town deposits and transfer those deposits or accounts from unresponsive banks to conscientious or responsive ones. These strategies work.”

“You individually have the power to encourage the banks to be responsible neighbors,” the email continued. “You as a group have enormous power to help change the law in New York State by motivating state officials to change these laws without further delays.”

“How many properties are we talking about here?” said Councilman Jeffery Gier.” And how many are owned by individuals and how many are owned by the town?”

In question are 8 properties, though Brecker didn’t know offhand how many were personally or bank owned.

“What happening is that banks are not foreclosing because they want to responsibility,” Brecker said. “They’ll pay the taxes but they will not foreclose. On top of that, we also have absentee landlords, which we get no response from. The Town can go in and condemn the buildings and take them down, but then we have to play the waiting game in terms of money.”

“We do have an Unsafe Building Construction law in our code that gives Gary the ability to go on the property and investigate it if it meets those requirements, but then you’re talking about having to front the money if it goes to an order of condemnation,” said Town Attorney William Trask. “The procedure calls for notifying the property owner, having a public meeting and doing an order of demolition. In these instances, you have to front, on the taxpayer’s dollar, the cost of demolishing those properties. That’s just not feasible from a financial standpoint. There’s expense involved in all of these options.”

The Board authorized CEO Brecker to assemble a report of the properties in question for the July 9 meeting.


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