Saranac Lake targets cluttered properties

SARANAC LAKE – The village wants to clean up a pair of messy properties, including one that was recently used in a bluegrass band’s album cover.

The village Board of Trustees has scheduled public hearings on Nov. 12 to consider declaring 10 Ridge Way and 139 Park Ave. public nuisances due to “the accumulation of rubbish, garbage, debris and solid waste on the premises.” The hearings will be held at the start of that night’s village board meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m.

The move follows inspections of both properties by Jeremy Evans, who’s been serving as village code enforcement officer since Tom Worthington’s resignation in September. The owners were cited on Oct. 23 with violations of the village’s Property Maintenance Law. Evans said it’s the first test of the law, which was enacted last year and allows the village to go onto a property deemed a “public nuisance” by trustees and remove any garbage.

“It would give the village the opportunity, if it so chose, to just go in and abate the nuisance and charge those costs to the property owners’ taxes,” Evans said.

Owned by Teresa Gowan, 10 Ridge Way is located in a neighborhood containing several mobile homes off of Forest Hill Avenue. The property has a long, narrow yard that’s littered with junk and a dilapidated house.

The other parcel the village is targeting, 139 Park Ave., is owned by Steve Schnibbe. The former tuberculosis cure cottage has several open and broken windows, and a porch and front lawn that are filled with assorted objects, including a portable toilet and a broken down, wildly painted minivan.

Evans said the village has received complaints about both properties.

“There’s a lot of rubbish and just waste and debris that have collected on them,” he said. “It’s not for me to say if it’s public nuisance. That’s the purpose of the law. But under the property maintenance code, there are certainly problems that in my estimation need to be addressed.”

This isn’t the first time the village has tried to remedy the problems at 139 Park Ave. In 2011, the village issued Schnibbe an appearance ticket for village court because it said the condition of the property violated the state’s fire prevention and building code. The village ultimately reached an agreement with Schnibbe to have him clean up the property by a certain deadline.

“A lot of things were cleaned up, and we had a good result from that,” Evans said. “However, there’s an accumulation of new rubbish and things on the property, so we’ve sent the appropriate violations again.

“We’re going this route to give the village the option of going in,” he added. “It doesn’t preclude the normal route of going to court and seeking to have the owner clean it up.”

139 Park Ave. was used earlier this year as the cover for the Blind Owl Band’s newest album, “This Train We Ride is Made of Steel and Wood.” The band also shot videos on the property.

“I think we’re sort of a fringe music, so the fringe scene that this is, the wonderful house of Steve Schnibbe, sort of played to it,” Eric Munley, the band’s mandolin player who came up with the cover idea, told the Enterprise in July.

In addition to cleaning up these properties, the village also wants to go in and board up the two houses’ open windows and doors, Evans said.

“That’s another option that we’re pursuing but that’s not related to this local law,” he said. “We have separate concerns with both properties and the buildings themselves. We’ve got to make sure they’re secure so people can’t go into them and get hurt, so they’re not harboring rodents or other animals.”

“We have great respect for property owners’ rights, notwithstanding public safety is a paramount concern,” said village Mayor Clyde Rabideau. “One building is abandoned and subject to vandalism and is an eyesore. The other building is not fit for habitation. Public safety is our primary concern.”

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or