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NARROWSBURG, NY — The Tusten Town Board is considering adopting new laws to address issues of noise, property maintenance, unsafe buildings and mass gatherings. The proposals have sparked heated comments on social media and a controversial mailing connected to the primary election in June and the general election in the November election of town officials.
Businessman and former council person Ned Lang paid for the full-page mailing with the headline, “The Truth About Zoning.” It warns residents that it if the board adopts what it calls the “proposed zoning changes” the rights of residents will be infringed. “If the paint on your house is peeling and shows signs of deterioration, you are in violation,” Lang writes in the mailing. It says further that the if a property owner does not address a violation to the town board’s satisfaction, “the Tusten Town Board may adopt a resolution authorizing entrance upon your private property to bring the property into compliance.”
Three of the proposals are actually for new local laws and one is a change to an existing local law. If adopted they will not be part of the zoning code, but separate laws. Kathy Michell, former town clerk and current chair of the zoning review committee, sent an email to the town board on May 5 that said, “The committee was asked to write Noise and Mass Gathering [codes], the drafts of which were presented. They are not zoning. The other two are also separate local laws, Property Maintenance and Unsafe Buildings but were not developed by the committee, only the town board. Again, they are not part of the zoning.” She added, “Personally I have objections to some of those local laws too and feel they are too restrictive and unenforceable.”
The issue has generated discussion on the Facebook page Narrowsburgians Unite! Supervisor Carol Wingert wrote, “I for one actually agree with part of Lang’s statements and will not be voting in favor of the property maintenance law. I have argued for years against things that are overreaching and invasive to our property rights.”
Council member Brandi Merrolla, wrote, “Months before the public hearing on the new proposed zoning laws, after I read some of these new proposals, I wrote an email to the town board and Kathy Michell with my strong opposition to restrictive and totally unrealistic changes for our town residents.”
The town board held a public hearing April 10 on the proposed local law changes. It also addressed some zoning issues such as expanding the Roadside Business District. Residents expressed significant dissatisfaction regarding the property maintenance and unsafe building issues. Council member Jane Luchsinger said the purpose of a public hearing is so that board members can hear the public. She said after hearing from residents, she will not support the property maintenance issue.
The unsafe buildings issue involved a minor change to a local law that already exists. The current version of Chapter 131 of town law, adopted in 2013, says that if a property owner has a building that presents a danger, the board can order that the situation be remedied. “In the event of the refusal or neglect of the person so notified to comply with said order of the Town Board and after the hearing, the Town Board shall provide for the demolition and removal of such building or structure either by Town employees or by contract.” The cost of that action will then be added to the owner’s property taxes.
There are similar laws in most municipalities in Sullivan County that are typically used to take down long-abandoned buildings that engineers have determined to be structurally unsound.