Knowlesville residents ask town to shut down boarding house

Photos  by Tom Rivers: Orleans County Undersheriff Chris Bourke attended this evening’s Ridgeway Town Board meeting to hear concerns from residents about a property where there was a standoff that lasted until nearly 3 a.m. on Dec. 4. Bourke said there has been 29 calls to 911 for service at the location this year.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 December 2019 at 11:25 pm

Multi-tenant residence was scene of standoff; town says property is single family, and is out of compliance

Undersheriff Chris Bourke says the Sheriff’s office will track down the owner of the property and serve him papers from the town. Registered mail to the owner has been returned to Ridgeway Town Hall.

RIDGEWAY – Town officials were asked by Knowlesville residents this evening to take action against the owner of a single-family residence that has illegally been operating as a boarding house.

The site at 3634 Knowlesville Rd. was the scene of a standoff that started at 4:46 p.m. on Dec. 3 and continued until about 3 a.m. Dec. 4. That incident closed traffic on the road and forced many neighboring residents to stay with friends and family, or at the Ridgeway firehall.

Residents say the site is a concern in the neighborhood, due to many people coming and going, people fighting at the house, shooting air rifles and alleged criminal activity.

There were about 85 signatures from Knowlesville residents on a petition turned into the Town Board, asking for the boarding house to be shut down. The petition was handed in at Monday’s board meeting.

Dan Wolfe, the town code enforcement officer, said the 2,211-square-foot house is zoned for single family, but has been used as boarding house with multiple tenants. That is against the town code for that zoning.

“I’m citing him for operating a boarding house,” Wolfe told town residents at the Dec. 16 meeting. “We’ll do whatever we can to hold his feet to the fire.”

Dan Wolfe, the town code enforcement officer, said he has red-tagged the house due to zoning violations and people should leave the building.

Wolfe said he red-tagged the house last week, putting signs on the house that the tenants should vacant the building. People seem to be ignoring the directive, Wolfe said at the Town Board meeting.

He told residents he doesn’t have the authority to force them to leave. The town needs to start a court proceeding against the owner of the property, Wolfe said.

He has previously sent letters to the owner, James Rodgers of Sycamore Street in Rochester, notifying him of citations with the property. Those certified letters have been returned unopened.

Undersheriff Chris Bourke attended the Town Board meeting. He said the Sheriff’s Office can locate Rodgers and serve him with a letter from the town.

Bourke told residents the location has been a concern to law enforcement officials. There have been 29 calls so far in 2019 to the 911 center for law enforcement to go to the site, including six times to serve papers to a resident there. Six calls were for disturbances. There have been calls for officer assistance, larceny, obstructing governmental administration, trespassing and for a person locked out of their vehicle, Bourke said.

Neighbors said they want immediate action with the house because they don’t feel safe in the neighborhood. They said they have been concerned about the Knowlesville house since 2017.

Town Attorney Kathy Bogan said she will work to get the court process started, seeking relief for residents in the neighborhood.

“We’re not here to complain about people living there,” one woman told the Town Board. “We just want it safe.”

Bourke said the residents can’t be kicked out unless there is a court process with a court order. The state has changed the laws making it more difficult to remove tenants, Bourke said.

He told the residents he would speak with officials from the State Parole to make sure no state parolees were staying there. He said he spoke with the County Probation Department, and no one on probation is staying at the house.

Town Attorney Kathy Bogan told the residents she is also working with the District Attorney’s office about addressing concerns from the residents.

“We have to go through the court process,” she said. “We don’t have a choice.”

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