Council rejects return of property to city

Nicole A. Hawley
Staff writer
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Posted 8/16/19

A resolution authorizing the city to accept a donation of property located at 509-11 Floyd Ave., which had previously been given to Habitat for Humanity at a cost of $1, was rejected during …

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Council rejects return of property to city

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A resolution authorizing the city to accept a donation of property located at 509-11 Floyd Ave., which had previously been given to Habitat for Humanity at a cost of $1, was rejected during Wednesday’s Rome Common Council meeting at City Hall.

City officials said Habitat for Humanity owed $2,927 in back taxes to the city and failed to submit the necessary paperwork to register its non-for-profit status, and therefore wished to donate the empty lot back to the city.

Second Ward Councilor John B. Mortise said it would set a “bad precedent” if the city approved the donation of property. Mortise said he felt it would set the example that anyone who “owed back taxes can just donate their land,” but “they need to deal with it and try to sell it.”

Fifth Ward Councilor Frank B. Anderson agreed with Mortise that the approval of the donation in this circumstance could be “setting a bad precedence,” but that not all requests could be treated the same.

“I have a concern that in some situations this may be valid” to accept the donation, Anderson said. “But I agree at this point, this is not the best scenario and it does have the potential of setting a bad precedence,” if approval for the donation is made.

Third Ward Councilor Kimberly Rogers said the city needs to be confident when it’s put in a position to accept donated property that it’s not foregoing possible tax revenues that can be profited. However in this case, the potential donated property is an empty lot.

“It’s not a public safety issue because there’s no building” on the property, she said. Rogers said in this case, it appeared the owners just simply “didn’t want to mow the lawn.”

Fourth Ward Councilor Ramona L. Smith said she felt if the city took back the property, then it could “sell it and make a profit,” rather than be forced to pay county taxes on it. However, Smith said she didn’t agree with how Habitat for Humanity handled the situation — that they failed in their responsibilities to build a home for a low-income family on the site and “forgot” to file the necessary paperwork to register the property for not-for-profit status.

“There’s no reason why they can’t just stick a ‘for sale’ sign” on the property, Mortise added. He said that way neighbors would have an opportunity to purchase the property for the rate of back taxes owed ($2,927). “...Then it’s back on the tax rolls,” Mortise said.

During a roll call vote, acceptance of the donation was denied, with Mortise, Rogers, Anderson and First Ward Councilor Cam T. Tien voting against the resolution, while Smith and Seventh Ward Councilor A. Robert Tracy voted in favor.

In other business:

• Language pertaining to a contract agreement authorizing Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo to approve Payment In Lieu of Taxes terms and the allocation of PILOT payments with Domino Solar, LTD was debated among members of the Common Council.

Third Ward Councilor Rogers said she found issue with part of the contract itself stating, “If the owner fails to fully implement the Decommissioning Plan within the 180 day time period specified in Section VI.6, above, the Taxing Jurisdiction ‘may,’ at its discretion, provide for the restoration of the site in accordance with the Decommissioning Plan and may recover all reasonable, direct and documented expenses incurred for such activities from the defaulted owner.” Rogers said she felt the use of “may” could provide leeway in making the property owner responsible for clean-up of a site if they chose to abandon the property, and that the possibility would exist that that responsibility would fall back on the city.

“My concern is that we don’t have something in place” if after 15 years owners abandon such properties after they no longer deem them profitable, Rogers said. “Who’s going to clean them up?”

After discussion with Corporation Counsel Gerard Feeney, councilors decided to keep the language in the contract as is. However, the Common Council unanimously approved a motion to amend the resolution and omit the language: “substantially similar to the agreement attached hereto” with Domino Solar LTD, for a period of 15 years.

• The resident of 807 Turin St. complained about the city not addressing a large pothole and/or pavement break at Walnut and Turin streets. He said the street is a heavily traveled one and when semis roll over the break, it causes a vibration felt inside his home at least 180 feet away. The resident stated he addressed his concerns several years ago to Councilor Anderson while he was running for his Common Council seat, and asked that he and other city officials come look at the problem area. After public comment period, Anderson stated that the area has been “under our radar,” but the issue is that it’s a state road. “We’ll follow up there,” Anderson said.

• Rome Historical Society Executive Director Arthur Simmons invited the Common Council and other city officials to attend a tour of the Fort Bull site with him and SUNY Binghamton archaeologists who have been studying the site at noon Monday, Aug. 26. The tour would not be open to the public at this time, but local media have been invited to attend, and Simmons said the tour would be an opportunity to garner a “better understanding” of the historical significance of the site, as well as the “survey objective” and need for preserving the “historic natural resource.”

• Mayoral candidate David Halpin addressed a concern about a Facebook post that he found in “bad taste” by a planning board member who said, “Let’s not make this into political commentary,” when the Planning Board failed to meet Tuesday evening.

Halpin said he “stated politely and asked nicely” why a third member of the board didn’t show up for the meeting. He said he was just showing concern for “projects in the City of Rome moving forward.”

Following the public comment session, Councilor Rogers said she wanted to remind people that certain posts on Facebook that are “bitter and mean” are “not helping us.” She said it was later learned that the third member of the Planning Board who was expected to attend (which was why the meeting was canceled), arrived 15 minutes late and that if “someone called” to indicate they were running late, then the issue could have been avoided.

Rogers said the agenda included items that were expected to be tabled for next meeting, however, projects will need to be held off for another month “and that’s not right either.” Councilor Anderson said the situation was addressed with Mayor Izzo Wednesday and likely there will be a special meeting.

• Bobbie O’Brien mentioned a meeting held at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Marcy that included the New York Power Authority and state Canal Corporation about the historic and future significance of the Erie Canal for recreational and economical development. She voiced her disappointment that Rome lacked representation at the meeting, especially considering that the first shovel for the canal was turned in Rome. Councilor Rogers indicated following public comment period that O’Brien did serve as a good representative of Rome at the meeting, and stated that if Rome were to ever be considered a “waterfront community,” then the city needed to “get outside” the Bellamy Harbor Park area and “look at Muck Road.”

Resolutions that were approved:

• Authorization to set up a special account and accept an award of $9,450 presented to the city police department by the state Traffic Safety Committee to participate in the Police Traffic Services program.

• Authorizing the chief code enforcement officer to attend the Asbestos Contractor/Supervisor course for a total of $760.

• Authorizing the City of Rome to enter into an inter-municipal agreement with Oneida County for electricity costs associated with the previously approved inter-municipal agreement for the West Dominick Street Art Plaza Hardscape Heating.

• Authorizing the mayor to enter into an agreement with the Oneida County STOP-DWI program for $20,000.

• Authorizing the mayor to enter into an agreement with the Oneida County STOP-DWI program “Crack Down Patrols” for $2,750.

The following ordinance was also approved: Authorizing the closing of a portion of North Washington Street, between West Dominick Street and Gigliotti Avenue for food truck vendors in conjunction with the Food Truck Rally on Aug. 26.

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