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Three Housing- Related Proposals On Council Agenda

City Council members will have a busy night Monday with three housing-related proposals up for discussion and a shared services agreement with the town of Busti that would allow the town to be paid when its ambulance is used for transport in the city limits.

The council’s Housing Committee meets at 6:30 p.m. in the police training room on the fourth floor of City Hall. Three committees meet at 7 p.m.: the Finance Committee in the mayor’s conference room on the fourth floor of City Hall; the Public Safety Committee in the fourth floor police training room and the Public Works Committee in the Development Department conference room. The full council has a work session at 7:30 p.m. in the fourth floor police training room.

Three ordinances have been included in the pre-filed agenda for Monday’s meeting: a vacant property registration ordinance, a rental inspection ordinance and a nuisance property ordinance. The ordinances have been drafted by the city Development Department.

“The purpose of these ordinances is to discourage property owners from neglecting or abandoning their properties, leaving them vacant, or in poor condition, and allowing them succumb to the elements presenting dangers to public health and safety and ultimately resulting in further burden falling to Jamestown tax payers in the form of decreased property values, uncollected tax revenue, City funded remediation costs, market stagnation, erosion of community pride and increased apathy,” Kasie Foulk, deputy city director of housing policy and development, and Crystal Surdyk, city development director, wrote in their memo to the council in support of the ordinances.

The vacant property ordinance would include fees for vacant residential and commercial properties that increase each year the building is vacant. The residential vacant property fee starts at $500 and escalates to $2,000 over the course of five years while the commercial fee begins at $1,000 a year and escalates to $5,000 over five years.

The rental inspection ordinance requires rental properties to be registered with the city and to receive a certificate of occupancy. The registration form would include the address, name and address of all rental units on the property, name and contact of the current owner, a local contact representative, the name and phone number of the person a tenant can contact when repairs are needed and the date, location and type of violations for all units at the property for which the owner has been cited over the past two years.

The program would come with a $50 fee to pay the costs of inspection and enforcement and a $25 reinspection fee. Failure to register would result in a fine of $50 per unit for landlords who don’t register within a year of the ordinance taking place.

The nuisance ordinance would focus on properties that result in neighborhood issues because they are used for illegal purposes, haven’t been properly maintained and are the subject of multiple police responses.

“Some of these issues, whether caused by landlords, tenants, or a combination of the two, have created issues that impact the health or safety of those living in close proximity to these properties. Where the violations are habitual,

these properties interfere with the comfort, health, solitude and quality of life of the individuals residing in the neighborhood; they have created a significant impact upon the living conditions in the City’s neighborhoods; and, they have raised justifiable concerns about public safety. Chronic public nuisance activities have been found to contribute to the general decay of affected neighborhoods, which result in a lowering the value of surrounding properties,” the ordinance states. “As a result of the activities occurring at these properties, and/or the conditions in which they are maintained, these properties tend to receive and require more than the general, acceptable level of Police and Code Enforcement services. As a result, they place an undue and inappropriate burden on the City of Jamestown taxpayers.

“The City Council of the City of Jamestown has determined that existing laws do not sufficiently encourage such property owners to take reasonable steps to abate the nuisances that their property is creating, and has determined that enhanced penalties will give such property owners additional incentives to ameliorate said problems, and help to compensate the city for the increase in police and code enforcement services.”

The legislative intent states the city doesn’t want to discourage crime victims or a person in legitimate need of police services from requesting them. The ordinance would allow the city to use the courts, after a lengthy process, to eventually order a building closed for up to a year until the nuisance issues are remedied.

City officials are also proposing a contractual agreement with the Busti Volunteer Fire Department to allow volunteer fire departments to recoup costs associated with providing ambulance services in the city. The arrangement is allowed under state law under legislation signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in 2022.

“As a part of normal, day-to-day operations, Jamestown Fire Department frequently utilizes mutual aid resources from outside fire agencies to support increased demands for ambulance transportation services,” the staff memorandum states. “While the city of Jamestown remains party to a contractual agreement with W.C.A. Services Corporation (d/b/a Alstar Ambulance) for the provision of ambulance transportation services, the demand for such services regularly outstrips the available resources of both JFD and Alstar. This scenario results in reliance on outside fire agencies to provide ambulance transportation services which fall outside of their normal response territory. This agreement will allow for automatic EMS mutual aid responses from Busti FD, and allow costs associated with those responses to become recoverable by Busti FD, under a shared-services arrangement with the City of Jamestown.”

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