A judge could fine them a few hundred dollars, but only if the defendant pleaded guilty or was found guilty in trail court. Many take the fines or do piecemeal work to remedy the situation.
"The whole basis of this (amended law) is that we are trying to put more teeth in our local law. As the law is now, if we have a building in disrepair and the owner is resistant, we can issue an appearance ticket; we can have a local law the building department can use to have these properties cleaned up in a more efficient manner," said Rosch.
Instead of using best building practices, inspectors will now have clear definitions and scenarios that dictate whether a building is unsafe. Inspectors can still issue tickets to appear in Town Court but now will be able to call upon the property owners to appear before the town board in a public hearing.
Town Attorney Arnis Zilgme, who was to have a draft of the law prepared by Wednesday, Oct. 3, said the goal of the law is to not drag these people into an embarrassing public debate. But property owners could be, and that could prove to be an effective tool, said town planners.
Having the new definitions, for example, that set how far a wall can be out of plumb, allows inspectors the ability to keep knocking on doors. There could be the potential for new citations, such as having refrigerators that cannot be opened from the inside on abandoned properties, that could warrant a citation under town law, he said.
The strategy to clean these properties up is still going to be based primarily in keeping contact with property owners, said Denise Sheehan, planning and economic development department director. But planners and building inspectors need to give themselves as many ins on some of the properties as possible.
"We are trying to give ourselves the ability to, after providing due process and if the building is deemed unsafe, to allow the town to take legal action to have the building removed," Sheehan said.