By Matthew Saari

The Village of Whitehall unanimously approved a nuisance property law after fielding only a few comments at its most recent monthly meeting.

The meeting started with Mayor Phil Smith opening the public hearing, allowing the public – numbering two residents in the audience – to voice their questions and concerns on the proposed measure.

“This is essentially the same law the town passed back in the fall,” Smith said.

One resident in attendance asked the board to clarify what nuisances are included in the law.

Smith provided a rundown of the included nuisances – which are derived from state penal code and village local laws.

Local Law 4 of 2020, the official name of the law, operates on a point system in which property owners are assessed points based upon which violations occur at their property. Penal code offenses such as assault, disorderly conduct, harassment and drug offenses carry a six point penalty whereas offenses stemming from local law ordinances such as noise control, house parties, junk vehicles and property maintenance among others, carry a three point value.

“A public nuisance is declared” when a property accrues 12 or more points in six months or 18-plus points in 12 months. “Multi-dwelling units,” or apartment buildings, have a bit more leeway, being able to accrue 18 points in six months and 24 points in a year before being declared a “public nuisance.”

Of note, with regards to criminal offenses, the nuisance law indicates a conviction is not required for points to be assessed against a property, instead being “established by a preponderance of evidence” including police reports, investigative reports, search warrants, police surveillance and arrests.

Should a property be declared a nuisance, the board can shutter the building to “abate” the nuisance; impose a $1,000 fine; take care of the property and bill the requisite costs to the property owner and/or revoke the property’s certificate of occupancy.

After a 10-minute public hearing, the law was approved 4-0, with trustee Tim Watson absent.

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