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Batavia agrees to consider prohibiting new rooming house

BATAVIA – City Council agreed Tuesday night to consider a local law prohibiting new applications for rooming houses on streets designated as R-2 residential zones.

City Manager Jason R. Molino said the current R-2 language is “inconsistent” with the city’s comprehensive master and community improvement plans, which recommend preventing multi-family structures from growing in an effort to preserve the “positive character” of single-family neighborhoods.

“Three amendments would need to be made – two in Chapter 190, permitted permissible uses effective July 1, 2015, and another in Chapter 143, which would eliminate the ability to apply for new applications,” Molino said.

By law, two public hearings need to be scheduled – the proposed date is June 22, two weeks after the Council’s next business meeting where it would address the changes.

Councilman Eugene Jankowski Jr. asked whether an existing rooming house or boarding house owner could sell the property to someone wishing to continue its current operation.

“To not allow that to happen would devalue the property,” Molino said, adding that the 10 existing rooming houses in the city would be allowed to continue as long as they conform to more stringent inspection requirements.

The council also moved to the June 8 business meeting a proposal from Molino and City Fire Chief James P. Maxwell to adopt an updated comprehensive emergency management plan.

“We have spent the past year and a half reviewing the EMP, a lengthy document that guides us on how we respond to emergencies with certain resources and in cooperation (with other agencies),” Molino said.

“The last time it was updated was about 15 years ago. It’s time for another update.”

In a memo, Maxwell stated the EMP is divided into three sections – planning and training, responses to threats and disasters, and federal and state support for declared disasters and emergencies.

Molino said training of city officials and staff, including online courses and live exercises, is a critical part of the emergency plan.

Other items moved to the business meeting included:

• Modifying the non-union employee vacation policy to award vacation time to department managers based on the amount of experience he or she brings to the job. Molino proposed that new supervisors be given one week vacation after six months of employment and vacation time commensurate with experience after one year.

• Drafting a second letter of support for the New York State Abandoned Property Relief Act that was introduced by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. The April 2015 version of bill calls for mortgagees to maintain vacant residential properties during the normally lengthy foreclosure process.