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Le Roy leaders tackle gnawing issue of ‘zombie properties’

Le ROY – Le Roy town and village officials are joining forces in an effort to stem the rising tide of vacant and abandoned homes and buildings.

“There are about three dozen vacant properties – a dozen in the town and two dozen in the village – that are in disrepair and detract from the value of the community,” Town Supervisor Stephen R. Barbeau said during a workshop of the town and village boards Monday at Town Hall.

Armed with copies of the Village of Medina’s vacant building registry, Barbeau, Mayor Gregory Rogers and six councilmen and trustees lamented the situation – each naming specific addresses that have turned into “zombie properties.” But the officials spoke in strong terms about how to fix the problem.

“The majority of the problem lies with the banks,” Rogers said. “In a foreclosure situation, the banks kick people out and a long time passes with the house in ‘zombie home’ status.

Thomas Stella, a Town Board member, suggested charging the banks a fee of $250 per month on top of the property taxes.

“We’ve got to do something to deter them. If we get our hands in their pockets, then they’ll start listening,” he said, adding that more leverage would be gained by getting all of Genesee County behind their effort.

Barbeau pointed to Medina’s registry, which was adopted as part of its village code last May. He said it requires the owner of a vacant building to register with the code enforcement officer no later than 30 days after any building becomes a “vacant building” as defined by the registry.

It also spells out the owner’s responsibilities in the areas of maintenance and rehabilitation, and imposes annual fees – based on the number of units in a residential building and the size of a commercial building – that increase the longer the building remains vacant.

The village and town leaders agreed to exclude homes or stores that are “under renovation” and were in favor of a “degree of subjectivity” for the code enforcement officer. They also said they placed a higher priority on reviving the first floor of a vacant storefront over the status of the building’s second or third floor.

All supported moving the issue to the Le Roy Planning Board’s meeting April 19 – a session that Barbeau and Rogers said they would attend. Their hope is to have something in writing by June and to schedule public hearings shortly thereafter.

In other developments:

• Rogers said the Village Board has set a public hearing for April 20 at Village Hall, 3 West Main St., on its decision to create a village-only Zoning Board of Appeals. Thomas Spadaro, Robert Scott and Charles Van Buskirk have been appointed by Rogers to serve on the panel.

The action comes on the heels of the Town Board’s vote last month to end a 12-year joint zoning board agreement with the Village Board and form its own three-member zoning board.

• Barbeau said construction of a new water district in the southwest part of the town and a small part of the Town of Stafford is under way. Le Roy Water District No. 10 will supply municipal water to about 45 homes at an annual cost of $725 per home for the debt service in addition to charges for usage.