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Potsdam begin search for code violations

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POTSDAM — The village has launched a comprehensive search for property code violations to try to prompt a facelift of Potsdam homes, rentals and businesses, but the first batch of violation notices came as a shock to some property owners.

The village hired Gregory Thompson, Lisbon, as code compliance technician last month. The position is part time.

Mr. Thompson travels from street to street, examining buildings’ exteriors for code violations. The village will be divided into four or five segments which will be examined in turn, and the work is expected to continue until late this year.

Property owners found in violation of the code will be mailed a notice, ordering them to fix up their properties and giving them a deadline for doing so.

Those who own property in the first region studied have already received theirs. Dozens of notices have been sent out, according to village Administrator David H. Fenton.

Some residents found the legal language in these notices to be too harsh.

The notices state that failure to bring properties up to code by the deadline could lead to “formal enforcement,” which may result in “fines or imprisonment or both.”

“I like the part about how I can go to jail for not painting my garage,” said Karen B. Easter, who was informed that she needed to repair the driveway and repaint the shed at her Cedar Street property by Sept. 2.

Mr. Fenton said nobody is jail bound, and those with minor violations have no reason to be worried.

The harsh language is meant for serial offenders, he said. Those who refuse to repair their properties will get a more formal warning. If they continue to refuse they will be brought to court.

“Obviously we don’t want to have to do that, but it will probably happen at some point,” Mr. Fenton said, adding that he expects there to be more code violation court cases in the next year than there have been in the last decade.

Village officials say they are considering softening the wording of the letter before the next batch of notifications is sent out.

Property owners have also criticized the tight deadlines.

Suzanne F. Waters lives on Bay Street. She received a letter ordering her and her husband Roderick Waters to repaint their home.

“It wasn’t worded very well. It was really very commanding,” she said.

They were given until Sept. 1 to complete the work.

“Money is an issue right now,” Mrs. Waters said. “We do what we can, but little by little.”

The village is happy to work with anybody who contacts them to give them the time needed to complete repairs, Mr. Fenton said.

It has received plenty of calls already, mostly from people who have no cause for concern.

“Most of the people who have called have more minor violations,” he said.

The village has been considering a full examination of properties for years, prompted by regular complaints about eyesores, Mr. Fenton said.

“We get a lot of complaints, from institutions in the village and private individuals,” Mr. Fenton said.

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