Granville’s Code Enforcement Officer said he has a problem only a new local law can resolve.
Harrington addressed the Granville Town Board Sept. 11 and explained to them that a number of properties in Granville have become…
… a nuisance and a hazard to their neighbors because they have been abandoned and are in unbelievably bad shape.
The worst property he was aware of was off of County Route 17 in North Granville near the Fort Ann border, he said.
“They left behind all the garbage that you could possibly think of,” Harrington said Friday.
Harrington said the yard around the home was strewn with bagged trash, including piles stored in improvised enclosures constructed of pallets.
More bagged trash was piled in the cellar and the home was left filled with household items, including food.
Harrington said he had exhausted all of the options available to him for dealing with a property when the owners abandon it, and he thought a local law might be the only option he had left to help the homeowners living nearby.
“The poor neighbors called everybody you could possibly think of,” Harrington said, but they received no satisfaction. The bank or real estate company had possession of the house at this point, Harrington said, and the taxes had been paid on the site, but no clean up effort had been undertaken to date.
“I sent them a ‘nasty-gram’ and ordered them to clean it up in 10 days or I’ll close it, they didn’t, so I did,” he said. The order condemning the residence still hangs in one of the road-facing windows.
Harrington said he thought the solution was to do the work and then charge whoever was ultimately responsible for the mess.
“I think that the town should take them, clean them up and then put a lien on the properties,” Harrington said.
Dick Myer, a neighbor to the site, said the family who used to live at that location disappeared while he was away on vacation in Florida in the spring. He said they never returned.
Myer said the conditions at the house could not be believed unless you had seen them for yourself.
“It sent us running to the door,” he said.
Myer said he thought the family had moved to Whitehall before leaving the area, but could not be sure.
Harrington said he condemned the home Sept. 2, not for its structural condition, but due to the accumulation of trash at the site. The former property owners could not be found, Harrington said, leaving no one to pay for the much needed clean up.
Myer said he could not be certain, but he thought he had seen a rat running through the grass near the property line just days before, just one example of how the site affects life at his house.
“Why is it taking so long for them to do something?” Myer asked.
Recently a real estate sign had been pushed into the ground at the roadside in front of the house, Myer said. A realtor he never saw simply opened the door to the home and set up a table with flyers on it and then left.
During the open house Myer said he went with another neighbor to look inside the home and what they found forced them to flee from the house.
The house looked like the residents were fleeing a natural disaster, he said, with bagged and piled items strewn all around the residence. The power had been cut off some time before and Myer said the men made the mistake of opening the refrigerator door.
“We just had to get out of there, it was the worst smell,” he said.
Myer said when he made contact with the real estate company they told him that they did not clean sites and any upkeep would be the responsibility of the owner.
Someone he did not know had come to the site to remove a large amount of scrap metal, but as far as he knew, Myer said that was the only debris to be removed from the site.
Myer said a white van and white truck appeared at the site last week.
Two workers, who did not identify themselves, wearing respirators and protective suits, spent some time in the home before leaving.
When he approached them to ask about what they were doing, Myer said the workers ordered him out of the house telling him it was not legal for him to be inside. Myer said it did not appear that they did any cleaning at the site.
Harrington said a similar thing had happened in the village on Prospect Street.
He said he had to condemn another house that had been filled with garbage before the owners left without a trace.
“They stuffed their garbage under the porch. It’s just not to fair to the people who are their neighbors,” Harrington said.
When he managed to make contact with the homeowner in that case, Harrington said he was flatly refused when he ordered a clean up.
“He said, ‘I don’t own it. The bank owns it now’” Harrington said.
Another site just a short distance from Myer, also on CR 17, appeared to be in equally bad shape. Neighbors report, however, that the site had been taken over by a relative of the former owner and was in the process of being cleaned.
As code enforcement officer Harrington said this was a quality of life issue that he had addressed with supervisor Rodger Hurley and village mayor Jay Niles.
“We don’t have enough bite in the rules,” Harrington said.
Niles said he had some discussion with Harrington in passing about his thoughts, but had not reached the point of taking additional steps to start work on a different law for the village. Any move like that would have to go before the board, he said.
Niles said one of the differences in the village was the property maintenance law already existed with steps and procedures in place. Niles said the Prospect Street house might be the first instance of this issue of an abandoned house coming up within the village and he felt existing laws probably handled the situation.
“I think it’s important that we go through the proper legal procedures,” he said.
Hurley said the town was currently examining its legal options relating to properties like the house on CR17.
Reimbursement for work done by the town to clean up the site, “turns out to be very complicated,” Hurley said.
Further complicating the matter were the legal issues attached to entering the building to remove trash. Highway Superintendent John Tanner was still considering using highway personnel to clean the site outside of the home because it was a nuisance and public health hazard.
“We’re trying to do what ever we can as quick as we can within the law,” Hurley said.