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December 10, 2016
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Cochecton addresses unsafe structures, introduces budget

At its September 25 special meeting, the Cochecton Town Board held three hearings, presented a first draft of the town’s 2014 budget and addressed several extraneous matters.

Two hearings concerned failure to comply with orders to remove unsafe structures from town properties. The third hearing was an administerial requirement associated with zoning law modifications completed as part of the codification project. Resolution #72 drew no public comment and was passed unanimously.

The first hearing was called to order and adjourned almost immediately because, as code enforcement officer Greg Semenetz explained, the property in question has been sold since the hearing was scheduled and the new owner has already complied with the order to remove all unsafe structures located on it.

A cordial exchange among the board, Semenetz, and property owner Aaron Wood marked the beginning of the second hearing. Acknowledging the dangers inherent in the two unsafe structures on his property, Wood stated that failure to comply with the order to repair or remove them was due solely to his inability to cover the cost of demolition at this time. He then asked the board how he could move toward compliance, short of immediate demolition of both structures.

Semenetz responded that he wished Wood had come to him and/or the board prior to the hearing, stating that doing so would have saved Wood the court costs of the hearing. He followed that admonition with the assurance that he and the board would be amenable to giving Wood a time extension for demolition, provided that all entryways, including doors, windows and other apertures in walls were secured as soon as possible, noting that abandoned and decaying buildings serve as an open invitation to trespassers.

When Wood asked exactly what “securing entryways” meant, Semenetz replied that all access to the building must be boarded up, nailed shut, or otherwise made impassable. The board adjourned the hearing until November 13, by which time Wood will have fully secured the unsafe structures and will present a proposal for demolition timeline.

Town supervisor Gary Maas pointed out that demolition by owner is frequently less costly than demolition initiated by the town, as an owner often has the option of burying the structure(s) on his property; the town is required to remove all building materials from the site and dispose of them in accordance with law. Councilperson Anna Story observed that demolition of two buildings at once is often a more cost effective choice: it’s cheaper to dig one hole than two.

The board quickly dispensed with routine matters: a tentative sand bid acceptance was finalized; and the Youth Commission accepted the resignation of board member Deb Gaetano and approved the nominations of two new board members, Julie Swendsen and Michelle Birney. Swendsen’s term will expire on December 19, as she is filling Gaetano’s unexpired term; Birney’s term will expire on December 22.

Maas unveiled the first draft of the proposed 2014 Town of Cochecton budget. A line-by-line review followed a quick peek at the bottom line, with Mass detailing the rationale behind each expenditure and explaining all significant variances to the 2013 budget. Board members will study the draft and meet again for a budget work session at 7 p.m. on October 17. For complete meeting minutes and additional information about Cochecton town government, visit