A public hearing brought considerable discussion about the new property maintenance law and the old no landfill law.

A public hearing brought considerable discussion about the new property maintenance law and the old no landfill law.

The new law, approved later that evening by the board, addresses problem properties where grass is never mowed, brush grows unhampered and garbage and debris litter the yard. The law grants town officials the right to enter the property and make necessary improvements to clean up the property’s appearance. Currently, town officials will cut overgrown lawns and cut away brush simply out of courtesy for the complaining neighbors, but they do so at taxpayer expense. The law gives the town the ability to charge the property owner for the work performed, and may even add it to owner’s property taxes if payment is not made.

“The intent is for foreclosure houses where owners are absent,” Code Enforcement Officer Chuck Verkey said. “Are we going to go out and harass the farmers? I don’t think so.”

But, residents expressed concerns that the law perhaps gives the town too much power.

Brian Donnelly questioned Town Attorney Dave Saracino at length about the law and it’s intent. Donnelly, formerly a village resident, said he moved to the country where property owners generally feel they have a little more freedom than those living in the village.

“On a farm, I worry about producing, not the beauty of the property,” he said.

Saracino assured residents the law “has nothing to do with buildings or structures. It has to do with vegetation and old vehicles.”

Donnelly further questioned Saracino about the law’s language, specifically the word “aesthetically.” “The Town Board by this local law intends to promote the public health, safety and general welfare and to maintain property situate within the town of Arcadia in a safe, healthy and aesthetically pleasing manner,” the law states.

The query comes after recent criticism surrounding the no landfill law and Saracino’s use of the word “initiate” in the law. Saracino’s definition of aesthetically specified the property can not be unsightly, adding “It’s a broad definition of the word, like ‘initiate.’” Donnelly noted that a landfill sounds rather unsightly and therefore would violate the law. Saracino countered that a landfill would be permitted for the use of disposal and so wouldn’t violate this particular law.

Before the meeting ended, residents showed their lack of faith in the board, criticizing them for failing to follow their own laws — specifically the no landfill law, which may yet be repealed or modified. Saracino explained “initiate” in the no landflll law refers to applying for a permit to operate a landfill and that hasn’t been done. The proposal before the board is merely a request to purchase land for the development of a landfill.

“What they are initiating with the town is a contract to sell land with the intent of developing a landfill,” he said. “This town board has not violated this local law and neither has the developer. You’re splitting hairs over the word ‘initiate’.”