Three homes in the Town of Tonawanda were declared unsafe and uninhabitable Monday night by the Town Board, but not before its members got an earful from neighbors frustrated by what they said was a lack of action on the eyesore properties.
The neighbors described vacant homes slowly decaying for years with holes in their roofs, rats, tall grass and frequent police calls for trespassing.
The board’s action Monday rescinds the certificates of occupancy for the homes at 272 DuShane Drive in the town’s Lincoln Park neighborhood and 68 Hawthorne Avenue and 156 Grandview Avenue in the Kenilworth neighborhood.
“We would really appreciate it if the Town Board, as soon as it could be done, would demolish it if these people aren’t going to do anything with it,” DuShane Drive resident Patricia Harbeck told the board. “What I see walking around our neighborhood is a number of homes that are deteriorating and if the town can’t take action then our whole neighborhood is going to be gone.”
Carl Heimiller, the town’s supervising building inspector, told the board that Monday’s action is the strongest the town can take short of demolishing the structures.
“We could board up the house or board up windows and doors if we have to, or we could demolish it if the situation becomes that bad,” he said, noting that the town is cutting grass at two of the properties.
Before the Housing Department could issue new certificates to allow someone to live in the houses, all housing code violations would have to be remedied and inspections must be done, Heimiller said.
Property taxes on the DuShane and Hawthorne homes are paid up and the Grandview home is bank-owned, Heimiller said. As long as taxes are paid, the homes cannot be added to Erie County’s foreclosure list, he said.
Councilman Joe Emminger said the problem of vacant homes is not unique to Tonawanda and many towns feel their hands are tied in dealing with eyesore properties. It’s often difficult to track down the true owners of the homes, he said.
“A lot of it has to do with bank-owned properties,” he said. “There’s just nothing that municipalities can do. Is it fair? No.”
Councilwoman Lisa Chimera said she supports a proactive approach to prevent the homes from falling into disrepair in the first place.
“Let’s start issuing these violation notices and let’s get the word out there that the majority of people in this town take great pride in their property,” she said. “But those who don’t, they’re going to be held responsible.”
All of the properties’ owners were notified by registered mail about Monday’s hearings, Heimiller said, but none appeared before the board.
Discussion of housing concerns continued in the public comment portion of the meeting when several Conant Drive residents spoke about other problem properties in their neighborhood.