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Chatham plans to get tough on scofflaw homeowners

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CHATHAM — The town is giving three property owners one more chance to comply with town code and zoning laws. If they don’t reply to an official letter by early January, the town will file lawsuits against the owners for repeatedly failing to respond to its requests.

At its regular monthly meeting December 20, the Town Board approved Building Inspector and Code Enforcement officer Walter Simonsmeier’s request to take legal action against the homeowners. Mr. Simonsmeier distributed photos of the properties to board members as he described the issues with each one:

193 Highland Road, owner Jim Dalvell: “The neighbors complain to us about the yard. The people walking by complain,” said Mr. Simonsmeier. “It’s not just the garbage outside, it’s the smell.”

1517 Albany Turnpike, owner Ray Rymanowski: The house has a spiral staircase between the first and second floors, which is against code because it is the only staircase, said Mr. Simonsmeier. Without obtaining permits, the owner allegedly built several buildings behind the house and an addition to the log cabin on the property.

418 Albany Avenue, Old Chatham, owner Jeff Mickle: The owner never paid building permit fees and, “they never finished the house,” said Mr. Simonsmeier. “I’ve been there personally many times, but no one answers. The certified mail all comes back.” Mr. Simonsmeier said he’s concerned for the safety of the people living in the house, because the building is not complete and there are no railings on stairs, for example. “What scares me is that I see kid’s toys scattered about, so it appears at least one child lives there.”

In other business, the board:

Discussed the replacement of the East Chatham bridge with Highway Department Superintendent Joe Rickert. Mr. Rickert said another conference call is scheduled for January 4 with CSX, the railroad company, which owns the bridge. It appears CSX will replace the 20-ton-limit bridge, but in return will ask the town to take over ownership and maintenance of the bridge. Mr. Rickert recommended keeping two lanes on the 18-foot-wide bridge, rather than reducing it to 14-feet and one lane.

Adopted resolutions to purchase two pieces of highway equipment — a 1977 Dodge 4×4 for $3,800 and a new wheel loader at $138,000.

Resolved to sell surplus highway equipment, including the old wheel loader. The revenue will be dedicated to capital expenses.

Heard from Mr. Rickert, who said he has received numerous complaints about hunters leaving deer carcasses near roads or on their property. “It’s pretty ridiculous how much was dumped on the side of the road and over the banks,” he said.

Appointed Aven Kerr to the Zoning Board of Appeals to replace Marilyn Cohen, who is resigning at the end of the year.

Heard Councilman Bob Balcom propose setting up a Capital Project Committee consisting of all town board members. The group would prepare a 5-year-plan for capital expenditures by August 31, 2013.

Accepted a proposal to conduct a town audit in early 2013.

Approved a resolution to adopt changes to town personnel policy creating consistency in employee health insurance and time off. “We’re getting everybody on the same page in all departments,” said Town Supervisor Jesse DeGroodt.

Approved waiving dog licensing fees for therapy dogs.

Heard Mr. DeGroodt say the town has received two applications for the Planning Board vacancy. The board will interview the candidates starting at 6 p.m. January 17, prior to its regular January meeting.

The board will convene its annual organization meeting January 3 at 7 p.m.

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