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Town of Huntington expands efforts against blighted properties

A sign outside Huntington Town Hall is seen

A sign outside Huntington Town Hall is seen in an undated photo. Credit: Alexi Knock

The Town of Huntington is expanding its fight against blight.

The board voted 5-0 on June 17 to pass two resolutions aimed at tightening regulations related to blighted properties.

The first measure requires owners of buildings, dwellings and structures that are vacant for more than 120 days to register those properties with the town's Department of Public Safety. The town aims to create the registry to help first responders identify vacant properties before entering a burning building and also provide the town with contact information in case of any code violations.

"Whether it's the owner, the bank, a partnership, an estate, there has to be a name, address and phone number so if we need to contact them," said town board member Susan Berland, sponsor of the resolutions.

The new law mandates annual registration of a vacant building with a yearly fee of $250. Failure to register could result in fines ranging from $1,000 to $15,000 per building to register.

In 2011, Berland sponsored a resolution that created a list of blight conditions with point values attached to each. The owner of a property that accumulates 100 points is added to a list and faces an annual fee attached to the town tax bill: $5,000 for commercial properties and $2,500 for residential, until the issues are addressed.

Last week, Berland introduced a resolution -- one of the two that passed -- that says if a blighted property is vacant for 60 days or longer, that will add 30 blight points.

Berland said blighted areas draw crime and impact the surrounding properties and that the town's blight program helps protect quality of life.

"These two resolutions complement each other," Berland said. "When combining them with the original legislation, we can further ensure that property owners are held accountable for their violations."

Since the blight law's inception, the town has cited 138 cases, with 67 open and 71 resolved.

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