Montgomery County Legislature sends 9 properties to land bank

Montgomery County District 7 Legislator Michael Pepe, left, and District 8 Legislator Joseph Isabel, right, during the Legislature's regular meeting on Tuesday. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

FONDA — Montgomery County Legislature wrestled with the decision to possibly remove some of the properties designated to be passed on to the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank, before passing the resolution during its regular meeting on Tuesday to convey all nine properties.

The resolution is for the land bank to either re-develop or demolish blighted properties in Montgomery County in order to strengthen local communities.

The nine properties included in the resolution were: 39 Monroe St., St. Johnsville; 13 Lower Prospect St., Fonda; 63 Center St., Fort Plain; 21 Lydius St., Fort Plain; 3 W Main St., St. Johnsville; 219 Canal St., Fort Plain along with a lot on Canal Street; 224 Main St., Fort Plain and 215-217 Main St., Fort Plain.

A motion to amend the resolution was made by Chairman Robert Headwell. The amendment was to have four of the conveying properties removed. The motion was defeated with four in favor, three against, one abstain and District 2 Legislator Brian Sweet was absent.

The properties that were being considered in the amendment to be removed were 21 Lydius St., Fort Plain; 224 Main St., Fort Plain; 219 Canal St., Fort Plain along with the lot on Canal Street.

Prior to the vote, legislators held a discussion on whether to remove the four of the nine properties.

District 9 Legislator Robert Purtell asked Tolga Morawski, executive director of The Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank, if it would be challenging to do work on 215-217 Main St. in Fort Plain if they did not have the 224 Main St. property because of the no on-street parking.

“Yes, it makes it more challenging because it’s on a hill,” Morawski said. “It’s in a very difficult spot, there’s not parking for units there and then there’s no on-street parking Nov. 20 through April 1, I believe each year.”

He said it would also be challenging on Canal Street without the two properties.

“I can’t support this if it’s jeopardizing the other projects,” Purtell said. “It seems like the land bank is putting good projects together and stabilizing the community and if we don’t give them these two vacant lots then it kind of destroys the plan for rehabilitating the property and having proper parking for it.”

District 6 Legislator John Duchessi was also against the amendment.

“What we have here in this proposal is something that is well thought out in reason and is consistent with a program to rehabilitate the properties,” Duchessi said.

He said the land bank was created to help the problems the county has had with blighted properties.

“We need to do more with the land bank and not less,” Duchessi said “And also, I would urge the legislature to perhaps form a committee to review some of these properties in the future before they are submitted to auction.”

District 3 Legislator Roy Dimond said one of the issues with the properties is that there was a late start with the properties.

“Time was spent marketing properties and advertising them. Specifically, on the first one we were contacted [about] was because they were an adjacent land owner, and as you know, a lot of the times they are the first people we try to get to secure some of their properties because they have the most vested interest, so that’s why it was brought to us,” Dimond said.

Headwell said he thinks the properties should go out to auction.

“I think if I was a homeowner and the property next door was going up, I would like for the opportunity to be able to purchase it in the auction versus giving it to someone to put a parking lot next to my house or something along those lines.”

District 8 Legislator Joseph Isabel agreed with Headwell.

“It sounds though like we’re going to allow the process to happen and then veto these, making them a moot point that they’re going to bid on them by subjecting them in the process,” said District 7 Legislator Michael Pepe. “If we’re allowing them to go to the auction to get bid on just to reject them, then what is the point of this?”

Duchessi said he believes there should be a well-thought out plan. He said there are a lot of uses for a vacant lot.

“But it should be done so in a way that makes sense,” he said.