George Pilger addresses members of the Moriah town board during its public forum June 19.
Beauty may only be skin deep, but it does make a first impression.
Appearance was the hot topic at the first Moriah public information meeting held by the town board at the Moriah Firehouse June 19 and attended by almost 40 residents.
“Are there any plans for the improvement of the appearance of the town,” resident George Pilger asked. “The upsetting thing someone said to me once was why is the main part of town such a mess.”
“There are eyesores when you come into town,” Geirgianna Scott said. “It’s concerning to see so many people disregard codes.”
“I think that it is important that as many people as possible speak to the issue of the appearance of the town,” Diane Lashway said. “Now, you don’t see the pride. You see so many abandoned properties, and it is such a sad site in the community.”
Barbara Baker said concerns over community aesthetics was nothing new.
“It’s not the owners who live in Port Henry,” Baker said. “It is concerning because the village is the first impression people get.”
“This is the number one issue on our mind as well,” supervisor Tom Scozzafava said. “We have condemned places and have had places torn down. The legal system for things like this is super expensive and lengthy.”
Scozzafava said the town enforces the state regulations when it comes to code enforcement over the laws currently on the town books.
“Our local laws for junk yards and junk cars are so antiquated. They are a joke,” he said. “We work to enforce the state codes.”
Scozzafava also agreed with Baker that a major issue is landowners who do not live in the town.
“A big problem is absentee landowners in Witherbee and Port Henry,” he said. “I am going to say that 80 percent of the people work hard to keep their properties up. We are going to get very aggressive about this.”
The town will be sending out notifications to property owners they feel are in violation of codes asking them to conform.
“We have some properties targeted in Mineville and we are going to try and work with them to get those properties cleaned up,” Scozzafava said.
“It does go to the larger issues of values,” said councilman Thomas Anderson. “I see the need for a grass-roots effort of people coming out and having this discussion. It becomes more concerning when you are cleaning up and finding things like hypodermic needles.”
“There really is nothing new here,” councilman Tim Garrison said. “The way we are going to solve this stuff is if we all decide to do this together. We want to go from being reactive on this matter to being proactive.”
Scozzafava said that while they will work on enforcing the state codes, he did not see zoning as an option to help.
“When you talk about zoning, you are talking about commercial and residential areas,” he said. “I do not think the town is laid out that way. I believe the state laws accomplish what we want to accomplish.”
Codes are currently enforced by a town officer who works a 20-hour per week part time shift.
“There is a lot that he does, and there are a lot of violations that he writes,” Scozzafava said. “If we hear from the people, it is a position they want to see increased for hours or by adding another positions, then we will look at it.”
“There is no way a 20-hour per week code enforcement officer could handle 180 complaints in his time,” councilman Paul Salerno said. “You have to be consistent and do all of the violations. It’s not fair if we do something to one person and do nothing to the person four blocks down the road.”
Council member Lucy Carpenter said officials and residents should realize this, along with other issues, are a work in progress that were neither created or would be solved over night.
“This is a first step, and we need to take this a step at a time and work together,” Carpenter said.
Tim Bryant, president of the Moriah Chamber of Commerce, said things have been put in place to start the beautification process.
“We have the PH7 Committee who has planted trees and worked in the village,” Bryant said. “There are some positive things being done, and there are people returning to the storefronts, so I do not want people to think it is all bad.”
“Instead of seeing the bad in everything, why can’t we give people a compliment on the things they are doing right,” Tina LaVigne said. “We need to work together a little bit more on these issues.”
Scozzafava said the town will host another public forum to specifically address the topic at a later date and encourage residents to attend the next town board meeting Tuesday, July 10.