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Tonawanda Town Board declares three eyesore properties ‘unsafe’

The Tonawanda Town Board declared three homes “unsafe” Monday night, but not before getting an earful from neighbors who said the eyesore properties have been decaying for years.

The board revoked the certificates of occupancy, clearing the way for possible demolition of the homes at 868 Delaware Road, 22 Harrison Ave. and 15 Edgewood Ave.

“This is the first step,” said Councilman John A. Bargnesi Jr. “This is how the ball gets rolling.”

Employees of the town Building Department can now enter the homes to see if they’re structurally sound and to secure them.

The Edgewood home was described by Carl Heimiller, the town’s supervising building inspector, as the most unsound of the three structures, with a basement full of water, holes in the roof and boarded up windows and doors.

The home, which has been vacant for six years, was characterized as a “zombie home” – one in which no one takes responsibility after the owner abandoned it in expectation of a foreclosure, but before the bank legally takes possession and is not technically required to maintain it.

The Harrison home was also described as a “typical zombie home,” with the home still in the owner’s name but its mortgage held by a Florida bank. The brick walls are bulging out, the foundation is compromised and tarps covering the roof have blown off, Heimiller told the board.

The Delaware Road home was raided May 14 by agents for the SPCA serving Erie County who seized 27 dogs. The Erie County Health Department has also declared the home uninhabitable, Heimiller said.

“Our Building Department takes an aggressive stand on these homes as much as they can,” Councilman Joe Emminger said. “We’re addressing the cases tonight on a case-by-case basis. There is going to be relief in the future.”