Cortland Vacant Building Registry Showing Signs of Success as Other City's Consider Similar Laws
As the City of Syracuse considers adopting a vacant building registry to deal hundreds of vacant derelict properties, the City of Cortland is beginning to see some success with its own registry.
Now heading into its third year the Cortland vacant building registry includes 44 properties. Cortland Fire Captain Lee Price who manages the program says he believes there are another 25-30 properties that should be added to the registry.
Price says the program is not without its challenges; it is very labor intensive trying to determine exactly who owns properties and in some cases locating the owners can be another issue. Many times the properties in question are stuck in legal limbo after owners have walked away from buildings and banks have not foreclosed on the property.
Captain Price says the program has been effective is stabilizing some buildings and in turn stabilizing the surrounding neighborhood. In some cases it’s not just about cleaning up a blighted property it’s about preventing bigger problems.
Once a property is registered, the owner faces an escalating registry fee until they identify a use or redevelopment of the property. Price says the program is supposed to act as a financial incentive to encourage the owners to do something with the properties. In some cases the city prorates registry fees and puts them toward building permits when the owner moves to put the vacant building back into use.
Captain Price pointed to some visible examples of the program success including the demolition of the former Kobacko building at 68 Huntington Street and the removal of a long abandoned home at 26 Fox Hollow.
City Administrator Mack Cook says the program still needs tweaking; the fees are not connected to the property value, so the owner of a large commercial property is paying the same fees as a residential property owner. Cook is looking to raise the fees and tie them to the properties taxable value.
Cook is also proposing that the owners of vacant buildings must designate a local contact located within Cortland County, and the owner must maintain at least $300 thousand dollars worth of liability insurance on vacant residential properties and as much as a million in liability coverage on commercial and industrial buildings.