Long a blemish on the border between Cold Spring Hills and Huntington, the site was the subject of Code Enforcement citations and legal action by the Town Attorney for several years. Compounding the problem, the site has changed hands twice since 2011; – once as the result of a foreclosure auction and subsequently as a resale.
Huntington spokesman AJ Carter says that the recent history of the parcel illustrates the difficulty that officials often face in trying to clean up derelict properties.
According to Carter, Code Enforcement officers issued citations to the owner of record, Rajiv Enterprises, in July 2011 after an anonymous tip reported that the site was being used as a used car lot. The subpoena enumerated a number of infractions that included overgrown weeds, litter, debris and the general disrepair of the roof. During the same month, the Town Board approved the new “Blight Law” slating its implementation for later that year.
In November 2011, with the Blight Law now in full effect, Code Enforcement officers restudied the condition of the building and grounds, using the new statute’s checklist (see blight scorecard below) as the basis for evaluation. The property scored more than 100 points which qualified it for inclusion on the blight list.
The new designation allowed the Town Attorney to begin legal proceedings and compel a cleanup. In the meanwhile, however, Rajiv lost ownership through foreclosure. As is often the case with auctioned properties, records were not quickly updated in either Town or County files.
The gears of government grind slowly but records show that after a public hearing in February 2012 and a Town Board resolution in March 2012, the site was added to the newly-created Blight List.
In April 2012, Town attorneys moved to compel corrective action in District Court but their suit was dismissed by Judge C. Stephen Hackling who ruled that Rajiv Enterprises was not the owner at the time the summons was written. As such, Rajiv was not responsible for the site’s disheveled condition.
It gets more complicated . . . . . .
In September 2012, the property was sold to ELA Enterprises by FAIB REO Acquisitions who had previously purchased it at a foreclosure auction.
In June 2013, there was another blight inspection and, again, the property scored well above the cut-off level.
The, on September 17, 2013 representatives of ELA Management Inc signed an agreement committing to demolish the building and remove the debris by November 1. In return, the Town waived the 2012 and 2013 blight fees which now totaled $5000.
The Town’s settlement with ELA also stipulated that if the structure was not taken down by November 1, the blight fees would be reinstated and the Town would demolish the structure, billing the owner for all associated costs.
Before starting demolition, ELA had to obtain certification that the building did not contain asbestos. On October 28, they received the necessary verification and the Town Building Department issued a demolition permit on October 29. The tear-down began on October 31.
Although continuing beyond the previously imposed November 1 deadline, Town authorities consider the work far enough along to rule that the owners have lived up to the terms of the agreement.
Future plans for the site are unclear at this time.
Blighted properties plague many areas in the Town of Huntington and are not reserved to commercial sections.
This is the first of a series. VT reporters will continue to gather detailed information and report findings in upcoming articles.