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Town seeks to prohibit conversion to condominiums

Cheektowaga wants to prevent housing developments from converting to condominiums -- and obtaining the assessment reductions that come with them.

During its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 5, the Town Board will hold a public hearing to consider the proposal. It would prevent a dwelling held in a condominium form of ownership from taking advantage of the reduced assessments afforded condos under state Real Property Law.

The local law would apply to any unit that is not already a condominium, Council Member Thomas M. Johnson Jr. said.

"You cannot convert the definition of your development to condominium for the purpose of reduced assessment," he said.

Under state law, condominiums are assessed not on the worth of each unit, but, much like an apartment building, on the worth of the development as a whole. Condominium and homeowner associations can apply to the state for the designation.

In many cases, assessments have dropped to a third to a half of what they would be for similar dwellings that are not condominiums, Town Assessor Brian Hess said.

That's an issue for taxpayers, says Jane Wiercioch, president of the Depew/Cheektowaga Taxpayers. She said it is not fair to the owner of a single-family home that is comparable to a home assessed as a condominium.

"I'm quite happy about that," she said of the proposed law.

She said members of the taxpayers group frequently talk about the inequity of assessments and reassessments.

With expectations for the construction of more patio homes, Cheektowaga wants that type of development from being assessed as condominiums.

"It would apply to any of the patio homes," Johnson said, adding, "otherwise, we're at the mercy of the state."

Hess said the patio home subdivision being built at 211 French Road, Hickory Grove, already has filed for condominium status with the state attorney general's office.

Johnson said the local law would not prevent a builder from developing condominiums, but would prevent the conversion of current units to condos.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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