Nuisance law dropped in Colonie

In their last meeting of 2007, Colonie board members voted to do away with an unenforceable public nuisance law created in 2003.

The law was initially passed to give authorities in Colonie additional tools to take on problematic businesses and homeowners. However, the structure of the law made it awkward to enforce and raised questions of constitutionality.

In its four years in existence and the 86,000 nuisance calls in a year on average the law was supposed to address, Colonie Police attempted to use the law several times to no avail, said Police Chief Steven Hedier.

Nuisance is a vague term. We can't control people's behavior other than what's in the state penal code, he said.

The law mirrors similar legislation in larger metropolises that help officials hit known crack houses, prostitution rings or organized crime, said Heider.

Fortunately for Colonie, the town hasn't had to deal with those scenarios. Instead, the law was initially put on the books as another attempt to go after troublesome adult entertainment businesses and loud and unruly bars.

However, police had found greater success using existing building codes to crack down on non-complying businesses and homeowners, said Heider. With that, he added that it wouldn't be wise to keep an unenforceable law on the books.

"My biggest concern is that we are leaving ourselves open to a lawsuit," said outgoing Deputy Town Supervisor Frank Mauriello.

The nuisance law was set up under a points system generated by calls to the properties or citations. If a number of points were generated in a certain amount of time, the town could bring the landlord, property or business owner before the board for questioning or reprimand. If that occurred frequently, the town could close down the business or condemn the home.

Doing so without the use of the town's court system "could be unconstitutional and probably is," said town Attorney Arnis Zilgme.

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