TOWN OF NIAGARA – Town Supervisor Lee Wallace has an idea for eliminating “zombie” homes: Give a tax break to anyone willing to fix up the abandoned properties and live in them.
Wallace told the Town Board at a work session Wednesday that he wants to pursue permission from the state to offer property tax exemptions for those who buy, renovate and live in homes that have been abandoned and could become “zombie” properties.
Wallace and town attorney Michael Risman are developing a program similar to one enacted in Batavia, which received special permission from the State Legislature for the rewards program.
Risman said the incentive would involve only designated zombie homes – ones that were abandoned by the owners and on which the banks had foreclosed. Many of the homes are left to deteriorate and become eyesores and safety hazards in neighborhoods.
In many instances, the homes need to undergo major renovations, Risman suggested the town should not “want to kill that person with a tax bill” if they make improvements.
Building Inspector Charles Haseley said he has identified about three dozen properties in the town that fit the description and are in various stages of ownership.
“The bottom line is to use every avenue we have to take care of blight in our town,” Wallace said, promising to present the Town Board with a plan in the near future.
In other business, the board is expected to finally approve the Tim Horton’s coffee shop planned for 7400 Military Road, a project that has been in the planning stage for more than two years. The plan has had to go through numerous steps to get zoning variances and plan reviews since it was first proposed, including approval for changes by Niagara County and the state, which oversees the roads near the intersection with Saunders Settlement Road.
Wallace said he wanted the town zoning and planning boards to give their approvals before the town board considers it Aug. 23.