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Murray passes new property maintenance law despite objections at public hearing

Photo by Kristina Gabalski: Joe Sidonio, standing at left, questions Murray Code Enforcement Officer Ron Vendetti, standing at right, during a public hearing in Murray on Tuesday evening regarding a new property maintenance law for the town.  The meeting was well attended and most residents who spoke told Vendetti and Town Board members they are not in favor of the new law.

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 20 December 2017 at 8:02 am

MURRAY – Town Board members Tuesday evening unanimously adopted a new property maintenance law following a public hearing during which many residents expressed opposition to the measure.

An initial public hearing on the law was held more than a year ago, in November 2016, at which time strong opposition was expressed by residents concerning the law. The Town Board decided not to take action on the measure at that time, but last month Code Enforcement Officer Ron Vendetti asked the board to re-introduce the measure because of a change at the state level which now allows for a single, unlicensed car on an individual’s property.

The new Murray law reflects the New York State Property Management code and was adapted for the town by Vendetti from a similar municipal law in the Town of Greece. The Town of Murray law varies slightly from the state code in that it stipulates that garbage cans be brought in from the road, and violations, which in the state code are considered misdemeanors, are lowered to violations in the new town law.

Vendetti has said that the new law will help consolidate property maintenance into one general code format which can be easily accessed and followed.

The Village of Holley has had its own property maintenance law in effect for several years.

During the public hearing, Vendetti first took questions from residents, in order to clarify the law, and then residents were able to comment to board members.

Joe Sidonio questioned Vendetti about the necessity of the new law.  “This is what alarms me,” he said, “we have the New York State codes, why do we need a new law? It makes no sense to me.”

Sidonio requested that the board not pass the property maintenance law until its full impact on agriculture is known. He noted the Town of Murray is very different from the Town of Greece, and that most areas outside the village do not have a high-density population.  He said as the legislative body, the town board should have written the law.  “I’m opposed to it in its entirety as it is today,” Sidonio said.

Kerri Neale said that when a law is proposed, its future impact should be considered.

“A lot of people are not against the codes, but the potential mishandling of how it is enforced,” said Neale, a local resident.

Concerns that the local law would give the code enforcement officer too much power and broaden the scope of the code officer’s authority were expressed when the law was first proposed a year ago and again Tuesday evening.  Several residents accused the town of “picking and choosing who gets into trouble.”

“I don’t want to see individuals pinpointed,” Art Knabb said. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

He said the law should be enforced fairly across the board.

Two town officials noted that they, too, have been cited in the past by Vendetti for violations, arguing that there is no selective enforcement in the town.

Town Attorney Jeff Martin said he had received a letter from Vendetti 7 or 8 years ago, when his law office building in thePublic Square in Holley was out of compliance due to winter damage to the brick and mortar exterior. No one, “is above the law,” Martin said.

Town Supervisor John Morriss said he, too, had be notified he has been in violation of property codes.

“I’ve gotten into trouble with Ron with a deck,” Morriss said. He explained that spindles on the deck had been placed one-quarter inch too far apart. Morriss said he had the contractor fix the spacing.

Several residents told the board they feel the property maintenance laws infringe on their personal freedoms and interfere with the use of their own property. They asked Town Board members to consider the fact that Murray is not densely populated like the Town of Greece or even the Village of Holley.

Council member Paul Hendel moved the resolution to adopt the property maintenance law following the public hearing after stating that the Town Board, residents and code enforcement should work together for fair, equitable and reasonable enforcement of the new law.

“With some small exceptions, we are not adopting anything new,” Hendel said.

Council member Bob Miller, who will become town supervisor on Jan. 1, supported the new property maintenance code.

“I would rather be strict in law and reasonable in enforcement,” he said prior to the vote.

When the vote was taken around 8 p.m., many residents attending had already left the meeting.

Morriss praised for service as town supervisor

With the exception of the year-end meeting for Dec. 28, Tuesday’s Town Board meeting was the final one for outgoing Supervisor John Morriss, who decided not to run for re-election this year.

“It’s time to go,” Morriss said.

He thanked Town Board members, attorney Jeff Martin, Town Clerk Cindy Oliver, support staff, Highway Superintendent Ed Morgan and Code Enforcement Officer Ron Vendetti for their help during his years as supervisor.

“You’ve done an admirable job,” Vendetti told Morriss. “You are one of the best supervisors I have ever had.”

Joe Sidonio, who lost a very close race for supervisor to Bob Miller in November, thanked Morriss during the public comment at the end of the meeting for his years of service.

Morris said he began serving on the Town Board in 1999 and before that was a member of the Holley Village Board.

Morriss thanked Sidonio for engaging more town residents in town government.

“It used to be you could hear crickets during the meetings, but now the public is engaged,” Morriss told Sidonio.

Morris said he is looking forward to life with fewer responsibilities.

“I will be able to sleep through the night Jan. 1,” he said.

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