Trustees declare 2 properties nuisances

SARANAC LAKE – Unable to get a pair of property owners to clean up their messy yards and secure their vacant houses, the village has taken matters into its own hands.

The village Board of Trustees agreed Tuesday night to declare 10 Ridge Way and 139 Park Ave. public nuisances. The move came after the properties’ owners were cited in October with violations of the village’s 2012 Property Maintenance Law due to “the accumulation of rubbish, garbage, debris and solid waste on the premises.”

“The next step is to work with the village manager and (Department of Public Works) to either identify how much time it would take to go in and abate the nuisances or to seek proposal from private contractors to do the same,” said village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans, who’s been doubling as code enforcement officer since Tom Worthington’s resignation in September.

The cost of cleaning up the properties would be charged to the owners.

In a separate resolution, the board gave village Manager John Sweeney authorization to hire an engineer to conduct an inspection of the houses on the properties, both of which are unoccupied. Under the “Unsafe Buildings” chapter of the village code, the village can seek an order from state Supreme Court “to secure or demolish an unsafe building in the event the owner fails to secure or demolish said building.”

“It’s my opinion that they’re clearly unsafe,” Evans said. “The purpose of having an engineer or architect come in is to determine whether or not they can be shored up, secured or whether or not they should come down.”

The village board had joined the resolutions declaring the properties public nuisances together, but before the vote, Evans asked trustees to table the resolution for 10 Ridge Way until Dec. 2. He said he reached a mutual agreement with the property’s owner, Teresa Gowan, to give her more time to reach out to friends and family for help in cleaning up the property.

The deal didn’t sit well with village Mayor Clyde Rabideau. He said Evans shouldn’t have given “unilateral permission” for an extension to one property owner but not the other.

“If you do it for one, you should do it for both,” Rabideau said.

“It’s the board’s discretion,” Evans responded. “What happened is the owner of 10 Ridge Way has reached out and is trying to work with us. The other owner (Steve Schnibbe) has made no attempt to do the same.”

The meeting began at 5:30 p.m. with a public hearing on declaring the two properties public nuisances, but no one spoke. Roughly five minutes later, as the board was in the middle of its discussion, Park Avenue residents Mark Bealor and Michelle Sirois walked in the door and wanted to speak about the problems at Schnibbe’s house.

Rabideau normally doesn’t allow comments from the audience while the board is conducting its business. He told them the public hearing had been closed.

Siriois said they had trouble finding the correct entrance to the building. The main doors to the Harrietstown Town Hall are locked after 5 p.m. The only way in is through a side door that leads to a stairwell to the village offices.

“I work for a living,” Bealor said. “I got here when I could. I live next door to this dump, and I’ve had enough of it. We pay taxes. We take care of our property. I’m living next to a place with raccoons living in it, toilets in the back yard, TV sets.”

“Other people are using it as a dumping ground for their trash now,” Sirois said.

An agitated Rabideau initially tried to cut off Bealor and Sirois, saying, “We got the picture. We heard it loud and clear.”

“You’re a real charmer, sir,” Bealor responded, getting up and putting on his coat to leave.

“I would just prefer a little bit of respect for the public who are paying for your services,” Sirois added. “We’re five minutes late, and we don’t get a voice?”

Rabideau ultimately allowed the two to continue to speak. Among other things, Bealor said he didn’t think the village had done enough to clean up Schnibbe’s property. The mayor said that isn’t the case.

“It’s not like we’re sitting on our hands,” he said. “We adopted this new law to address this particular house. We’ve been working on this for a long time, going through a process to take somebody’s property that they own.”

Bealor said he and Sirois just want to know what the village is going to do, “and do what we can to help get the place bulldozed to the ground.”

Trustee Allie Pelletieri said he finds it “very hard” to take someone’s property.

“I look at their property as being theirs. There’s something American about that,” he said. “We had to take our time and make sure we put the right laws in place so it wouldn’t come back on us, the village wouldn’t be sued, and you wouldn’t end up paying for a lot of litigation through your taxes.”

The board ultimately agreed to separate the resolutions for the two properties. Trustee Paul Van Cott moved to table the resolution for 10 Ridge Way to give Gowan more time to clean up her property, but it failed for lack of a second. The board then voted 4-0 to declare the two properties public nuisances.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or