[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Saratoga Springs 11-19-2019. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also repealed former Ch. 222, Vacant Buildings, adopted 2-5-2013, as amended.
The Saratoga Springs City Council finds that buildings that are left to remain vacant are likely to become both unsightly and unsafe. They quickly cause a negative effect on their surrounding neighborhoods as well as on the entire City. This is especially true for buildings identified as an historic building or located within historic districts, as those buildings serve as the foundation of the City's cultural heritage. This chapter establishes a method for identifying and registering vacant buildings and imposes reasonable responsibilities for property owners.
The following terms are hereby defined:
- HISTORIC BUILDING
- A building or structure located within an historic district, identified as a City landmark, or listed on the New York State or National Register of Historic Places or which are eligible for such listing as determined by the State Historic Preservation Office.
- HISTORIC DISTRICTS
- Those districts identified in § 7.4.18 of the City Zoning Ordinance.
- Any person or legal entity identified as the property's owner of record in the records of the City Assessor's Office, or a mortgagee or mortgagor in possession of the property, or an assignee of rents, a receiver, an executor, a trustee, a lessee, or any other person or legal entity in control of the premises. Any such person shall be jointly and severally obliged to comply with the provisions of this chapter.
- SECURED BY OTHER THAN NORMAL MEANS
- Secured by means other than those used in the design of the building.
- UNOCCUPIED BUILDING
- A building or portion thereof which lacks the habitual presence of human beings who have a legal right to be on the premises, including buildings ordered vacated by the Code Administrator and his or her designees. In determining whether a building is unoccupied, the Code Administrator and his or her designees may consider, but are not limited to, these factors:
- A. Whether a lawful residential or business activity has ceased.
- B. The percentage of the overall square footage of the occupied space to the unoccupied space, or the number of occupied units to unoccupied units.
- C. Whether the building is substantially devoid of contents or whether the value of fixtures or personal property in the building is minimal.
- D. Whether the building lacks utility services.
- E. Whether the building is subject to a foreclosure action.
- F. The duration of the vacancy.
- G. The presence or recurrence of code violations.
- UNSECURED BUILDING
- A building or portion thereof which is open to entry by unauthorized persons without the use of tools or ladders.
- VACANT BUILDING
- A building or portion of a building which is:
- A. Unoccupied and unsecured;
- B. Unoccupied and secured by other than normal means;
- C. Unoccupied and an unsafe building as determined by the Code Administrator or his or her designees;
- D. Unoccupied and has multiple housing or building code violations; or
- E. Occupied in violation of one or more of the provisions of this section.
The owner of every vacant building shall register that building with the Office of Code Administration not later than 30 days after the building becomes vacant, or in any case not later than 30 days after receiving notification from the Office of Code Administration that the building must be registered. The Office of Code Administration shall have authority to identify vacant buildings through routine inspections as well as by any other reliable source of information that a building may be eligible for inclusion on the registry.
Registration shall be submitted on forms provided by the Office of Code Administration and shall include the following information:
A description of the premises, including address, block and lot number, and age of the building(s) located thereon;
The name, telephone number, address and email address of the owner;
If the owner does not reside in Saratoga County or in any adjoining county, the name and address of any third party who the owner has contracted with for management of the premises;
If the owner is a corporate entity, including but not limited to a corporation, limited-liability corporation, professional limited-liability corporation, or limited-liability partnership, the name, telephone number, address and email address of an agent responsible for the management or maintenance of the property, at least one active officer, partner and/or member of such entity, the registered address for the entity, and the state in which the entity is registered;
The names and addresses of all known lien holders and all other persons with an ownership interest in the premises;
A telephone number where a responsible party can be reached at all times during business and nonbusiness hours.
The owner of every vacant building shall submit a vacant building plan which must meet the approval of the Code Administrator. The plan, at a minimum, must include the following:
For all vacant buildings:
If the building is to be returned to appropriate occupancy or use, a rehabilitation plan must be submitted for the property. The execution of the rehabilitation plan shall not exceed 364 days unless the Code Administrator grants an extension upon receipt of a written request from the owner detailing the reasons for any such extension. Any repairs, improvements or alterations to the property must comply with applicable building, zoning and City Code requirements and must be secured in a manner approved by the Code Administrator.
If the building is to remain vacant, a statement detailing the reasons why the building will be left vacant and for what time period the building will remain vacant, a plan for the securing of the building and the procedure that will be used to maintain the property in accordance with applicable City and state building, zoning and code requirements, including, but not limited to, the Uniform Property Maintenance Code.
If the building is to be demolished, a demolition plan indicating the proposed time frame for demolition.
For all vacant buildings identified as an historic building or located in an historic district:
If the building is to be returned to appropriate occupancy or use, a rehabilitation plan as required in Subsection C(1)(a) above with such plan to further detail and itemize all architectural and historical features, and all building materials, including roof, facade, windows and exterior doors. Any rehabilitation plan which includes the installation, removal or change of materials or exterior building elements, which calls for the addition or removal of architectural features or which requires a building permit is subject to historic review by the Design Review Commission and must comply with § 7.4.7 of the Saratoga Springs Zoning Ordinance, as applicable.
If the building is to remain vacant, a statement detailing the reasons why the building will be left vacant and for what time period the building will remain vacant, a plan for the securing of the building and the procedure that will be used to maintain the property as required in Subsection C(1)(b) above with such plan and procedure to further detail how the securing and maintenance will preserve and protect the existing architectural and historic features. The installation, removal or change of materials or exterior building elements associated with the securing and/or maintenance of the building is subject to historic review by the Design Review Commission and must comply with § 7.4.7 of the Saratoga Springs Zoning Ordinance, as applicable.
If the building is to be demolished, a demolition plan as required in Subsection C(1)(c) above with such plan to further detail compliance with § 7.4.11 of the Saratoga Springs Zoning Ordinance, and either written approval from the Design Review Commission or an order or judgment from a court of competent jurisdiction requiring the demolition of the building.
The owner shall immediately notify the Office of Code Administration of any changes in the facts provided on the registration form. If the premises change ownership, the new owner shall file a new registration form within 30 days of the transfer.
A registration shall be renewed annually for so long as the building remains a vacant building. Each renewal shall indicate any changes in the information provided since the previous filing. Each renewal shall also include proof that a fire inspection has been conducted on the premises within 60 days prior to the filing of the renewal.
The Office of Code Administration shall review the registration form and accompanying plan for compliance with local ordinances and state codes.
The Office of Code Administration shall develop, in consultation with the Fire Department, a schedule for the periodic inspection of each registered premises. A copy of the schedule shall be given to the owner.
Filing of a registration form under this chapter shall not relieve the owner from the obligation to comply with any and all applicable laws.
No building shall be removed from the vacant building registry until such time as it is occupied on an ongoing basis consistent with the customary and usual usage for such property.
Fees for registration and inspections under this chapter shall be established from time to time by resolution of the City Council.
The owner of every registered vacant building shall acquire or otherwise maintain liability insurance in an amount of not less than $300,000 for buildings designated primarily for residential use and not less than $1,000,000 for any other building, including, but not limited to, buildings designated for manufacturing, industrial storage or commercial uses, covering any damage to any person or any property caused by any physical condition of or in the building. Such insurance policy shall provide for written notice to Office of Code Administration, within 30 days, of any lapse, cancellation or change in coverage. Proof of the required insurance shall be submitted with the vacant building registration, annual renewals, and upon request by the Code Administrator.
The owner of every registered vacant building shall provide a cash escrow, if any, in an amount to be determined by the Code Administrator, but not to exceed $5,000. The escrow may be used to reimburse the City for expenses which may be incurred to secure and maintain the property upon the owner's failure to do so in accordance with the approved vacant building plan.
A building which has suffered fire damage or damage caused by extreme weather conditions shall be exempt from the registration requirement for a period of 180 days after the fire or extreme weather event if the property owner submits a written request for exemption with the Office of Code Administration. The written request shall include the following information supplied by the owner:
The description of the premises, including address, block and lot number;
The description of the damage sustained to the building and the cause of such damage;
A statement of intent to repair and reoccupy the building in an expedient manner or the intent to demolish the building;
If the building is to be demolished, a demolition plan indicating the proposed time frame for the demolition and, if the building is identified as an historic building or located within an historic district, compliance with § 7.4.11 of the Saratoga Springs Zoning Ordinance, and either written approval from the Design Review Commission or an order or judgment from a court of competent jurisdiction requiring the demolition of the building.
Any property upon which a building permit has been received and is actively developed shall be exempt from the registration requirement for a period of 180 days from the date of the written request for an exemption submitted to the Office of Code Administration. The exemption may be extended upon written request submitted to the Office of Code Administration for a period not to exceed an additional 180 days.
The Office of Code Administration shall have authority to inspect any premises in the City for the purpose of determining whether there exists thereon a vacant building as defined in this chapter. Such inspection may be conducted by consent of the owner or upon the issuance of an appropriate court order.
The Office of Code Administration shall submit an annual report, no later than December 15 of each year, to the City Council, identifying all buildings declared vacant under the provisions of this chapter, the date upon which all such buildings were declared vacant, whether the building has been duly registered and whether the owner has filed a vacant building plan as required herein.
The Fire Department shall establish a written operations procedure for vacant buildings for the purpose of reducing the risks to firefighting personnel and to the public during fire suppression operations. Such procedure may include a system of markings to be placed by the Fire Department on the exterior of the building to indicate specific safety concerns therein. A copy of the operations procedure shall be given to the owner of each registered vacant building, and said owner shall sign a statement indicating that he or she has received a copy of the procedure.
The Office of Code Administration shall maintain a record of all vacant buildings registered or otherwise found to be vacant buildings as defined in this chapter.
Any person or legal entity who shall violate any of the provisions of this chapter shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor as defined by § 10.00, Subdivision (4), of the Penal Law, and shall be subject to a fine of not less than $1,000 and/or a term of imprisonment of not less than 15 days, but not to exceed one year. Each day on which a continuing violation exists is considered to be and may be charged separately as an individual offense.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed so as to supersede or limit the lawful authority of the Police Department, the Fire Department, any Code Enforcement Officer (as that term is defined in City Code § 118-3), or any other City official or employee, from taking immediate action to make safe any building or structure, or part thereof, that endangers the health, safety and welfare of any person or of the public.