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Gloversville looking to reduce ‘zombie’ properties

Gloversville officials will attempt to seize an abandoned property at 6 W. Eighth Ave. under state Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law as part of a new initiative aimed at cleaning up vacant properties and bringing them back on the tax roll. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

GLOVERSVILLE — City officials plan to pursue a new tactic to reduce blight and the number of vacant properties in the city through the seizure of abandoned “zombie” properties that would be turned over to interested developers who would raze or rehabilitate the structures.

Mayor Vincent DeSantis on Tuesday provided the Common Council an overview of plans to put into action a section of state Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law allowing the title to an abandoned residential property to be conveyed to a municipality through a special proceeding.

“Of course, an abandoned property has a definition of a true ‘zombie’ where the owner has left the property and abandoned it, the mortgaging bank is not interested in paying the taxes or maintaining it, they’ve just sort of left it,” explained DeSantis.

Under the law, the city could seize and dispose of these abandoned properties. Depending on the condition, DeSantis said the city would turn the properties over to a private individual or organization for demolition or rehabilitation.

“We wouldn’t go ahead and take title to it if we were going to be on the hook for the demolition,” noted DeSantis. “The city would seize it and then do something with it, not necessarily tearing it down, but turning it over to somebody who would be able to benefit the community with it.”

Gloversville officials will attempt to seize an abandoned property at 21 N. McNab Ave. under state Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law as part of a new initiative aimed at cleaning up vacant properties and bringing them back on the tax roll. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

The city has already identified two abandoned properties that City Attorney Anthony Casale will begin proceedings on to test the process; 6 W. Eighth Ave. and 21 N. McNab Ave.

“We’re anxious to do our first two,” said DeSantis. “It would be our first run through and hopefully it’s successful.”

The West Eighth Avenue property would require demolition, according to DeSantis, who noted that he has been in touch with Century Linen owner Richard Smith whose city-based location abuts the deteriorating residence and who reportedly would be willing to take title to the property from the city to raze the house.

“I don’t know if he would be expanding or he may need it for some purpose,” DeSantis added.

The McNab Avenue property appears to be in sufficient condition to allow for its transfer to an individual interested in and capable of renovating the property, bringing the property back on the tax roll and eventually leading to its occupancy.

While the city has not identified any individuals or agencies interested in that property if the city successfully takes title to the abandoned residence, DeSantis agreed with 2nd Ward Councilman Arthur Simonds’ suggestion that the city could potentially work with the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth to locate a candidate to take ownership.

The city previously worked with the CRG in a somewhat similar capacity following the city’s acquisition of properties at 26, 20-24 and 12-18 S. Main St. from developers, Two Great Guys Corp., as part of an agreement. The CRG marketed the properties at 26 and 20-24 S. Main St. and eventually sold the mixed-use buildings to NVP Development for a total of $25,000.

The developers recently received Planning Board approval for a residential and commercial renovation project at 20-24 S. Main St. The CRG is also developing plans to demolish the partially collapsed former Littauer Building at 12-18 S. Main St. to construct a parking lot on the site to serve NVP’s project.

In general, the city in recent years has focused on working with local agencies and governments to address blighted and often long vacant properties. The new proposal by the city to acquire abandoned properties and turn them over to private citizens or developers for renovation or demolition is similar to a program the city hoped to undertake with foreclosed properties.

The city in 2019 approached Fulton County officials seeking to acquire several residential properties that were underbid during the annual auction of tax foreclosed properties for a program that would have offered income qualified residents the properties on the condition that they live in the properties themselves and bring them up to code.

The city ultimately determined launching that program in 2019 was not feasible due to the poor condition of the underbid homes. Inspections of those properties by the city found the cost of bringing the residences up to code would have been too burdensome.

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