New Blooming Grove Property Maintenance Laws
The Black & White, And The Gray
By Edie Johnson
With a lengthy moratorium over and a new Comprehensive Plan currently having its final review by the County, and with the economy doing relatively well, Blooming Grove is poised for some new growth, and they want to be ready. Before tackling some other zoning issues for the next round, they want to be sure that new residents, whether business or residential, have a reasonable guide to understand what will be required of them in caring for their land, such as keeping their property mowed, free of garbage, and machinery properly stored. The Village of South Blooming Grove has already drafted a set of property maintenance laws that they will soon adopt, but with their lots much smaller there will be different issues that arise with the larger town properties Board members sat with Planner Bonnie Franson to try to come up with more or less cut and dry set of rules, which works in the town’s favor if a property maintenance issue goes to court. During the past two years instances where court appearances have been necessary in the Village of South Blooming Grove have been cut by about 2/3 because of a change in local law which allows adjudication at a town hall meeting, if successful. If not the cost is added to the owner’s tax bill. By this method the Building Inspector said most instances are rectified, saving both the individual and the town money. But back to landscaping issues, while homes in the village usually range from about 1 to 3 acres, many in the town are either 3 or 5 acres, and there is still farmland in the hundreds of acres. When larger lots come into play there are questions about portions of the property that have berms, or deep brush and tree buffers, wetlands that machinery cannot work in, and fields that are either fenced in for animals, or left to remain “fields”. This makes a reasonable grass maintenance ordinance challenging. While the details began to look like there was too much tangle to untangle, Building Inspector Jeanne Ovensen said that by far the large majority of property maintenance issues are currently the batch of foreclosed and/or abandoned homes. This being a first round of looking at the issue, it became clear that simple solutions like “Owner has to keep 100 (or 200) feet in front of their property mowed, simply won’t work. Franson recommended taking a look at how other towns deal with such issues. The Building Department has to have some discretion in evaluating where there is a problem or not, and the homeowner or business owner can always seek relief through the Zoning Board of Appeals if they believe requirements are unfair in their instance. It’s clear that this new section of regs will be challenging. Deputy Supervisor George Doering suggested that the property’s overall landscaping needs to be considered. Resident Jim Cassaza asked “But what if the property is very large and much of it is fields? What makes a “field” vs. a “wetland” when there are some dry areas and some wet? What about a property that has a fenced in paddock in front that has not been mowed for years…. does fencing put it outside of the law? What about rocky areas and wetland that can’t even be weed-whacked. Councilman Chuck Quick added that he thinks the town needs to be careful not to “over-regulate” Clearly the subject is going to require a lot more study, but they will try to knock out at least the beginning of a usable framework by next month’s work session, before more properties become unsightly due to lack of mowing.
The nearly 3-hour session went on to address some related issues, like auto and truck storage because of some properties that have junked vehicles, large commercial trucks, and even an automobile transport carrier full of cars. Others have large recreational vehicles and sizes of these seem to keep growing. And then there are “Containers” that country-wide are becoming popular for use in storage, barns, and even used as “Tiny Houses (Blooming Grove is a clear “NOPE” on that one). The Town found it necessary to develop page after page of sample vehicles so they could have a valid case in court when town regulation of 1 vacation vehicle or one commercial vehicle and 1 “junk” vehicle left definitions too gray at court hearings. The town’s Noise Ordinance is also being reviewed, as to what constitutes fair and unfair hours of partying, construction and related decibels. Also being looked at are Soil Removal, Erosion, Filling, Grading and Sediment Control. Massive trucks delivering mulch, gravel and the like are fine now and then, but as Supervisor Jeroloman said “50 trucks later it’s not landscaping”.
Yet one more issue was discussed, revision of codes that limit height and number of stories in different zones to make the limits more consistent, remove 40 ft. heights from RC1 zones, and counter a tendency they have seen in other towns in the area where developers have piled dirt up above the first floor in order to increase the actual building height. New regulations will likely try to avoid that by limiting height as measured by the “average original grade” at the circumference base.