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Hearings about unsafe structures lead to talk of affordable housing

AMENIA — After approving resolutions declaring two residential structures unsafe at its meeting on Aug. 19 (one at 5282 Route 44 and one at 31 Tally Ho Drive), the Amenia Town Board held mandatory public hearings on the structures at its meeting on Thursday, Sept. 16.

The Route 44 structure was later identified as a traditional residence while the structure at Tally Ho was described as a mobile home.

At the board’s August meeting, town Supervisor Victoria Perotti explained the board received a memorandum from Building Inspector Michael Segelken declaring both structures unsafe according to current building codes. 

In his memo, Segelken said he notified Town Engineer John Andrews and met with Andrews at both locations to assess the condition of the two residences. 

Andrews thoroughly explained the properties via separate memos to specify the problems, Segelken stated via memorandum. 

It was Andrews’ recommendation to demolish and/or remove both properties. Segelken recommended the board hold hearings so the process could begin immediately.

The two mandated public hearings for the demolition/removal were held on Sept. 16, starting with the hearing for the structure at 5282 Route 44. 

First public hearing on Route 44 residence

Stepping up to the podium, Kelly Merino identified herself as that building’s owner.

Merino explained she bought the residence a couple years ago with a friend, who later “bailed” on her; she then bought out the building, which she said left her a little cash-strapped. While Merino had two contractors lined up to demolish the building last year, she said both contractors then disappeared on her.

Having filed for a demolition permit, Merino said, “I do understand it is an eyesore; I do have intentions of getting rid of it, it’s just been really hard to find somebody to do it.”

Merino said she reached out to some people last week to see about tearing down the building. She assured the board that she understands the problem, and that it’s just been a matter of “time and money.”

Perotti said she understood Merino has been in conversation with Segelken for a while about the property. 

Merino confirmed she had an order from the building inspector to demolish the property. Perotti said she also heard that Merino had to get asbestos abatement done at the site; Merino said she contacted contractors about doing so. 

Perotti told Merino to keep the board posted on her progress with the  building, and Attorney to the Town Ian Lindars said Merino should go through himself or Segelken to report to the board.

Affordable housing option?

Stepping forward, Leo Blackman, head of the Amenia Housing Board (AHB), said the AHB had actually identified Merino’s property a while ago as one that might be suitable to adapt as affordable housing. 

Blackman said he spoke with Segelken about the idea and while he hasn’t been inside the building, he understands there are problems with the septic system and with water in the basement.

Blackman said the AHB would like time to bring a representative from Hudson River Housing or Dutchess County Housing to examine the building to see if it’s salvageable for affordable housing. 

He also wants to talk to Merino to see if she’s interested in converting the building to affordable housing. Until then he requested the Town Board delay the demolition a week or two so the AHB can learn if the building is worth saving.

Perotti said she believed there’s a 60-day window; Lindars said it’s 30 days to order the demolition and 60 days to complete the demolition. 

Through a resolution Lindars prepared, the Town Board declared the building unsafe and directed that the building either be repaired or demolished. The attorney suggested if there’s a plan Blackman wants to present to the board, it be done within the 60-day time frame.

Blackman said the AHB will work to get that information right away “because it seems like a waste of resources and we’ve had a very hard time finding a site for affordable housing in the area.”

Second hearing on 

second unsafe property

After closing the first public hearing, the board opened the public hearing for the structure at 31 Tally Ho Drive.

Maryellen Lugo introduced herself as the manager of Tally Ho Estates and said they’re going to demolish the building.

“It is unsafe, we know it, we’ve been trying all this while to get it [done],” she said, “so Monday morning, I will be here to get a permit to demolish it so there’s no problem with that.”

As there were no further comments, the public hearing closed shortly thereafter.

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