Valatie looks for funds to toughen code enforcement

VALATIE–The Village Board heard from several residents about code enforcement issues at the June 14 meeting. Gunther Fishgold, the owner of several businesses on Main Street, came to the meeting with his lawyer, Virginia Benedict, to make a complaint against an apartment house on Main Street commonly known as the US Hotel.

The US Hotel, which is owned and run by the Valatie Local Development Corporation (LDC), a non-profit quasi-governmental agency separate from the Village Board, was one of the buildings residents talked about as allegedly having code volitions that were not resolved. Mayor Diane Argyle suggested increasing the hours and salary of the village building inspector/code enforcement officer to deal with the properties that do not comply with the village code.

“Does the village give the building inspector any teeth?” Joe Staib, a property and business owner in the village, asked the board. He said that projects go forward without permits or not following zoning laws. “What am I getting a permit for?” he asked of upgrades he has made to the building he owns on Main Street. “Fair is fair,” he told the board.

Mr. Fishgold and Ms. Benedict made similar points, saying that when Mr. Fishgold opened his new restaurant on Main Street he was told by the building inspector that he needed to upgrade the kitchen even though the two businesses that ran restaurants out of the same space before him did not have to do upgrades. Ms. Benedict called it “selective enforcement.”

“It’s a double standard,” Mr. Fishgold told the board.

The issue that Mr. Fishgold and his lawyer really want the village to deal with is the US Hotel, which is on the same side of the street at both Mr. Fishgold’s restaurants and across the street from a retail store he owns.

Village Attorney Rob Fitzsimmons stressed that the LDC was a separate entity from the Village Board with separate funds. The LDC was set up by the Village Board in 2002 and has received grants and mortgages to purchase properties in the village, including the Trolley Station on Main Street. The LDC, with a five member board at the time, purchased the US Hotel in 2012. Mr. Fishgold pointed out that there now seems to be only one member of the LDC board, board Chairman Jason Nastke, and that no improvements have been made on the building.

Mr. Fitzsimmons said that if Mr. Fishgold filed a formal complaint the building inspector could ask to inspect the building and go into the public spaces of US Hotel. “To register a complaint they have to ask for an action,” he said.

He also said that the state had inspected the building at the request of former village Building Inspector Walt Simonsmeier and had found minor issues.

Mayor Argyle stressed that the Building Inspector Vincent Concra, who was hired in December, is only part time and has a limited amount of time to deal with the code violations and issuing permits. “The board has to seriously think about increasing his hours and salary,” she said.

“He has only 10 hours a week to do this work,” she said.

As for the issues in the US Hotel, board member Frank Bevens said, “Let’s get the complaint and then send it to Vince so he can do what he needs to do.”

Ms. Benedict also took issue with the tax exempt status of the US Hotel, saying that there has been no renewal of tax exempt paperwork filed and that the original application was “laughable.”

Mr. Fitzsimmons said he spoke to the town assessor, who also assesses village properties. He said that a former assessor issued the tax exemption and that the new assessor didn’t see a change of use that would call for a new tax exempt application.

Ms. Benedict said that organizations with permissive exemptions must file every year to get receive the exemption.

Also at the meeting:

•Mr. Bevens announced the village received $100,000 from the state to repair the fire house floor. Under one section of the fire house truck bay the floor is in need of repair that could cost around $200,000. “That’s huge,” said Mr. Bevens of the grant. “It’s $100,000 that the village doesn’t have to pay.” The board will look into to finding funding for the rest of the cost

•The fire company is raising money for new thermal imaging camera. Members will conduct a boot drive July 23 and host an open house at the fire house from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The next board meeting is Tuesday, July 12 at 7 p.m. in the Martin H. Glynn Building.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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