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Pound Ridge Town Board Narrowly Approves Vacant Storefronts Legislation

The Pound Ridge Town Board at its June 11 meeting.
The Pound Ridge Town Board at its June 11 meeting. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

POUND RIDGE, N.Y. -- Legislation intended to discourage commercial storefront landlords from keeping their properties vacant for long periods of time was narrowly approved by the Pound Ridge Town Board at a meeting on June 11.

The approval was by a 3-2 margin. Voting in favor were Councilwoman Sharene De Palma, who is an architect of the legislation, along with Councilwoman Ali Boak and Councilman Dan Pasckes. Supervisor Dick Lyman and Councilwoman Bonnie Schwartz each voted against the legislation.

Under the new law, commercial landlords whose properties are left vacant for more than six months will be required to register their properties with the town. The registration will not cost anything as long as it is done on time.

Landlords filling out registration forms are asked to provide contact information for an individual responsible for handling the property so that people who are interesting in renting or purchasing can reach out. Landlords are also asked to include a brief statement in their registration forms on what their plans are for their properties.

Additionally, owners who register will be required to post signs outside of their properties providing the same contact information given in the forms.

De Palma argued that the law is meant to make it easier for people to get in touch with landlords and to improve transparency. She cited concerns from residents and business owners about commercials vacancies and impact to nearby property values from them.

The ordinance, which was first presented to the Town Board in February and revised several times, originally included a provision for vacant property owners to pay fees to the town, but with the ability to avoid doing so if they were trying to rent or sell their properties. De Palma acknowledged that the fee provision garnered opposition and noted that the opt-out portion had a subjectivity standard for eligibility.

“My intention here was never to penalize property or business owners," De Palma said. "In fact, it’s the opposite, but to have a thriving district where everybody benefits.”

Boak argued that the law is intended to go after landlords who keep their properties empty for a long time.

“This is really to get those egregious cases where properties are sitting vacant for years.”

Before voting against the legislation, Lyman argued that it had been "watered down" to the point where he did not see a reason for it. Lyman also contended that he has not had trouble getting in touch with storefront owners.

Residents were mixed on the legislation; debate was marked with repeated cross talking.

Dennis Miele of Pound Ridge Partnership called the legislation "innocuous" and said it is not punitive to owners who are trying to rent.

Peter Avellino noted the public nature of commercial areas and expressed concern over long-term vacancies.

Discussing the business district, Avellino said, “it’s vital that we try to do everything in our power to kind of control the narrative.”

Several residents argued that the law was not needed, either citing existing code for dealing with buildings posing a public danger or defending landlords' rights to do what they want with their properties.

“You want to force somebody to have a conversation they don’t want to have," said Donald Perun. "That’s not your right."

“I don’t understand the purpose of this being a law," said Jody Sullivan.

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