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Batavia’s vacant home solution: tax breaks for fixing, moving into abandoned homes

Like many cities across upstate, Batavia is confronted with abandoned or vacant houses that lead to deteriorating neighborhoods.

But Batavia believes it has a solution:

Residents who fix up and move into abandoned or vacant houses will get tax exemptions, the City Council decided Monday.

“We’re the only community in New York State that has this,” City Manager Jason R. Molino said after the City Council acted Monday.

There are about 50 abandoned single-family homes in the city that would qualify for renovation, Molino said.

Tax abatements will be issued on a sliding scale for a period of up to 25 years, based on the increase in the property’s assessed value after redevelopment.

The city requires the owner must live in the home, Molino said.

The goal is to put these properties back on the tax rolls, which would benefit the city, county and school district. Molino previously presented the idea to the Batavia School Board and the Genesee County Legislature, hoping that those taxing jurisdictions also will pass measures to provide tax relief.

In another development, Assistant City Manager Gretchen L. DiFante reported that 42 stray cats were rounded up in the East Main Street and Harvester Avenue area last month as part of a “trap, neuter, vaccinate and return” approach to reducing the city’s feral cat population.

She said this was possible because the person who has been feeding the cats was willing to work with the volunteer team headed by Ann Marie Brade, Genesee County animal control officer. Employees of the State Street Animal Hospital administered the vaccine.

“The key to the success of this project was that the colony manager, the term for those who feed these cats, took ownership,” she said. “When this happened, we were able to use funds from an SPCA grant to vaccinate the cats.”

She said the group will meet later this week to develop a plan to continue the TNVR process.

In other action, Council:

• Authorized the selection of Urban Forest Analytics LLC of Geneva as consultant to develop a tree management plan for the city – a strategy that is being funded by a $15,000 grant from the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Urban and Community Forestry program.

Previously, city officials worked with Cornell University to prepare and complete a tree inventory. This next step focuses on a comprehensive plan to manage trees, primarily in the street right-of-way and in city parks.

• Approved the purchase of an E-One 100-foot rear-mounted platform aerial ladder truck to replace the fire department’s 22-year old aerial ladder truck that will be traded in as part of the transaction. The truck was paid for by using $905,000 from the city’s capital equipment reserve fund.

Fire Chief Daniel G. Herberger said the truck, which had been in Florida, should be put into service within a month.

• OK’d the annual Genesee County Crop Walk for April 30. The three-mile walk that starts at the First Presbyterian Church on East Main Street is conducted to raise funds for hunger abatement.