The Town of Huntington's campaign to rid its neighborhoods of eyesores is working, officials say, and residents agree.
So far the town -- under a law put on the books in 2011 that targets blight and aims to rehabilitate properties that are dilapidated, strewn with debris or hazardous -- has cited 102 owners and levied fines of about $110,000. Of that $38,000 has been collected.
The town has spent $72,132.26 restoring properties.
"The point is to protect our communities to make sure that property values don't deteriorate because of the one house on the block that refuses to do what they are supposed to do," said town Councilwoman Susan Berland, sponsor of the original legislation two years ago.
For years, 3 Forest Ct. was an eyesore in the Halesite neighborhood. Thanks to lobbying by neighbors, it was eventually demolished under the law and later rebuilt by a new owner.
Philip Mallouk, who lives next to the property, applauds the blight legislation and encouraged residents who encounter similar problems to notify the town board.
Just about every month, the board is presented with a resolution listing the section, block and lot number of numerous properties that have been designated as blighted by the town's code enforcement department and brought to the board's attention for remedy.
The town has a list of blight conditions with point values for each. The owner of a property that earns 100 points will be added to a list and face an annual fee attached to the town tax bill: $5,000 for commercial properties and $2,500 for residential, until the issues are addressed.
Property owners have three options once their property is found to be blighted: They can enter into a restoration agreement with the town and fix the property; the town can fix the property and attach the cost to the property tax bill; or the property can be demolished after a town administrative hearing.Of the 102 properties cited, 50 of the cases have been resolved while the remaining 52 are in various stages of the remediation process. Two properties have been demolished and three properties that are in the hearing process have been recommended for demolition.
Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said the success of the program should not be measured in how many people are fined or how many properties are razed.
"The goal of the program first is to educate people and make them responsible members of the community," he said. "You want everybody to realize a good quality of life is important to the neighborhood, but it should be important to them as well."
Getting problem properties on the blight list is a good first step, residents say.
"If they can get the property listed, it puts some pressure on the town to remediate the situation, whether it be unkept lawns, or jalopies on their property that are just sitting there and are an eyesore," Halesite resident Mallouk said.
"Even though this is a long, arduous process it does come to a conclusion," Berland said. "Either the property is going to be sold to someone else who is going to rehabilitate it, or the town is going to take measures to put it in compliance."
Some violations under the blight law
Owner has summonses or has been prosecuted for violations of town code: 50 points
Property attracts illegal, noxious or deleterious activity: 50 points
Property constitutes a fire hazard: 50 points
Property has unfinished construction: 20 points; boarded windows and doors: 5 points; damaged, unsightly, unsecured or unpermitted signage or awnings: 15 points; graffiti: 10 points
Presence of vermin: 30 points
(100 points puts a property on the town's blight list)