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Lawmaker wants to expedite blight cleanup

County Legis. Sarah S. Anker (D-Mount Sinai) has introduced a bill to speed up the process of cleaning up blighted homes, after long-standing complaints from neighbors triggered the demolition of a dilapidated home in Rocky Point.

A crew from the Suffolk County Department of Public Works took down the county-owned house at 96 Hillside Ave. last week, after neighbors decried its condition.

Last year, the previous owner defaulted on about $20,000 in taxes, and the county took possession of the house last August, officials said.

The single-story house's roof was caved in and the front wall was collapsing, before a bulldozer and county employees demolished it on Aug. 15.

Neighbors said the house had been abandoned for at least eight years and was a public safety hazard.

County officials say homeowners can pay off back taxes and petition for return of control of the property for as long as six months after seizure. Another county provision gives homeowners an additional two years to pay taxes if they file a hardship claim.

Anker said that in the past three years, only one homeowner has filed for a hardship extension, while the county spent $700,000 to maintain abandoned homes.

Anker said her bill would speed up the process. "We must do more to get these properties from becoming eyesores and safety hazards. These properties are a burden to not only the county but to taxpayers," she said in a release.

"This legislation will provide a balanced approach that allows former owners a meaningful opportunity to redeem their properties while ensuring that tax default properties are returned to the tax roll and productive use within a reasonable time period."

The bill could be voted on at the Sept. 13 meeting.

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