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Town on Blighted Properties: It's a Work In Progress

Progress is slow, but officials say they are taking steps to push property owners to make changes.

The town of Smithtown has been moving forward with its initiative to said town councilman Bob Creighton, with the department of public safety issuing summonses and town officials meeting with property owners.

“It’s a work in progress,” he said of the initiative, which he spearheaded with councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Kevin Malloy. “We have had some results, but not nearly as much as we want.”

Creighton noted the case of the steel structure on Indian Head Road in Kings Park, which he said was intended to be an office building but has not had any construction done on it in the last five years.  According to Creighton, the building’s owner has said he will be renewing that construction.

Sean Lehmann, president of the Kings Park Civic Association, said that the Indian Head Road structure is the “number one complaint we get” from residents.

That structure is one property being looked at by the town in addition to an original list of 19 prepared by town officials in order to address the issue.

One property on that list, the Ley property, a former bar on 25A in Kings Park, has seen some changes in recent weeks. Broken shingles and graffiti scrawled boards have been replaced by fresh paint. New wooden boards secure the builiding's openings from the teenagers that were breaking in to the empty building.

“It doesn’t look like a dump,” Creighton said.

Though the work is an improvement, some think more needs to be done. Kelly Ortega has worked at the Capital One Bank branch across the street from that building for three years.

“It looked like hell for the last three years until they recently painted it. It looks better now, but it’s still an eyesore,” she said. Ortega said customers have come in asking about what’s going on with the place across the street.

Sandra Ley, the property’s owner operates Kings Park Animal Hospital a few doors down.  Her husband, Rob Risten, said they have wanted to make the building into a new veterinary office for the past eight years.

“The idea was for us to move to a brand new facility,” he said. They have complied with everything that they’ve been asked to comply with, he said, and are waiting for their attorneys to reach a conclusion with local government.

“We’re trying to upgrade the community,” Risten said. “We want to make the community happy.”

Frank DeRubeis, Smithtown’s planning director, said that several meetings have been held with some of the  property owners whose proepties are in question, and while he said there hasn’t been any movement on most of the places, there have been a few meetings about tearing down the remaining buildings on the old Nassau Suffolk Lumber site.

According to DeRubeis, certain residential structures that have been damaged by fire or are dilapidated will be demolished, but many of the sites on the town’s list are building department and code enforcement issues.

Creighton said that besides leveling heavy fines for noncompliance with local ordinances, the town is in the process of reducing permit fees required for property owners to make renovations to the facades of buildings. He said that will be discussed at the town board meeting on October 27.

“Instead of murdering them with permits, we’re trying to reduce those fees in order to make it cheaper for them to do the work,” he said. 

Dave Adams October 11, 2011 at 10:35 AM
I just had to pay $100 for a permit to replace the electric service on my home, plus another $85 to have it inspected. I think that's a little over the top. I guess it's in the name of making sure things are done correctly around town but I'm tired of having someone else's hand in my pocket every time I turn around.
KKM October 11, 2011 at 02:40 PM
People like Dave spend their hard earned dollars doing things right (getting permits, etc) ...and you can't imagine the hassle if you build something like a deck, or extension without a permit and you get caught. Meanwhile other property owners aren't called to task for letting blighted, dangerous properties remain. Can someone from the Dept. of Public Safety explain the reasoning?
lisa costello October 11, 2011 at 04:13 PM
at nibbler.........a bit dramatic at mcknight..excellent point
ronnie carteri October 11, 2011 at 05:38 PM
Town on Blighted Properties: It's a Work In Progress ===================================== Ha - Ha These problems will not go away by taxing, fining property owners. Problems can disappear by attracting new stores, business and commerce. Officials need to create a positive, competitive retail climate. Every new store will try to out do it's neighbor with a clean inspiring retail appearance. But the "old Guys" (Creighton and Wehrheim) haven't figured that out. They honestly believe their (anti-business) strong arm bully tactics will work. You can't beat up property owners 'with fines' and expect them to like you. When word gets out and it will, Smithtown villages will be viewed as anti business and no one will want to lease property here. For Main Street to succeed, Creighton and Wehrheim need to be voted out. Think for a moment: Until this recent election period did the "old Guys" ever make recommendations about the eyesores and problems of Main Street. NOPE. During their past term(s) in office, Neither Official: ‘said nothing' / 'they did nothing'. If voters keep the Creighton and Wehrheim in office - nothing will change. Can it get worse? - you betcha. Do you want it to get worse? - That's up to the voters.
angela wellsen November 02, 2011 at 11:02 PM
Prmises, Promises Reviews and Reviews But NO positive action by the current Council man's Creighton and Mr. Ed Time for a change........... Tuesday 11-8-2011

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