Council approves fire code

Non-owner occupied 2-family homes now subjected to inspection

GLOVERSVILLE — The Common Council on May 28 approved an ordinance amending city code to subject non-owner occupied two-unit residential properties to fire inspections pursuant to a permit.

Mayor Vincent DeSantis earlier this year proposed expanding the categories of residential housing subject to a permit through annual fire inspections under city code to include non-owner occupied two-family residences, arguing that the measure would help ensure rental units in the city meet fire safety standards while addressing issues related to blight and public safety.

Previously under city code only dwellings with three or more residential units were subject to permitting and inspection by the fire department. These properties are subject to permitting regardless of whether or not the building owner occupies any of the units.

The Common Council conducted a public hearing on the proposed ordinance to amend city code during the April 24 meeting, receiving positive feedback regarding the intent of the legislation from property owner Santo Lopresti who also expressed confusion over which properties would be subject to inspection due to the wording.

Before enacting the ordinance during the May 28 meeting, the council addressed the potential for confusion by approving an amendment to the wording of the ordinance to read, “buildings with two residential units where none of the units is occupied by the owner of the building.”

The council then unanimously approved the ordinance expanding the categories of residential housing subject to a permit through fire inspection to include non-owner occupied two-unit residential properties.

Although permits issued to multiple-unit dwellings are for one year, DeSantis said that inspection of the two-unit residential properties will be rolled out softly to allow the fire department to go through the 700 to 750 non-owner occupied properties that will be subject to inspection for the first time.

“Even if it takes a couple of years to get through the extra amount of inspections, that’s fine as long as we get the process started,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis noted that Fire Chief Thomas Groff met with the firefighter’s union to plan the rollout of the additional inspections of the affected properties that may require more attention initially as they have never undergone inspection before.

To ease the process for firefighters and property owners affected by the legislation, information detailing the regulations buildings are subject to will be mailed out to educate owners before inspections are scheduled.

“When we send out the notices we want to give all of the new property owners that are getting the new inspections, the two-family owners, a list of the things that the fire department will be looking for when they do inspections so they have prior notice of what’s required, because they’ve never been through the process,” DeSantis said.

Additionally, DeSantis said in the future the city may consider extending the length of certificates of occupancy and therefore the period of time between fire inspections for all multiple-unit dwellings from one year to two years or the city may develop a merit based system that would see two year certificates issued to properties that are free of violations during fire inspections.

“So there’s some possibilities out there,” DeSantis said. “We’ll see what happens as we go through.”