SENECA FALLS — Real estate developer Casey McDonald objects to a Seneca County local law prohibiting the issuance of a building permit if a property owner is more than 90 delinquent in property taxes.
He’s twice appealed to the county Board of Supervisors to change the law.
His latest battle took place in town court. The county Building and Fire Code Department took him to court over code violations at property he owns at 144 Fall St.
On March 28, Town Justice Dean Laquidari concluded a bench trial by ruling McDonald was not guilty of code violations.
McDonald said he was found not guilty by Laquidari because he corrected all code violations at 144 Fall St. He acknowledged that the code office did not issue a permit, so the work was done without a permit.
“I did everything according to state code. County code has a duty to administer state standards. Just because they aren’t doing their job, doesn’t exempt me from doing mine,” McDonald said. “I’m not going to allow my buildings to be unsafe.”
McDonald said if he is charged with correcting violations without a permit, he will be able to appeal to the New York State Code Appeals Board.
“Code is for public safety, not tax collection. How many buildings in Seneca County are falling down because of this law?” he said.
“No one should be denied a permit for back taxes owed. That’s why we have foreclosure proceedings. Back taxes have nothing to do with public safety,” McDonald said. “This local law hurts our community and needs to be changed.”
There has been no talk by the Board of Supervisors on repealing the local law.
In January 2016, the county code department ordered McDonald to make repairs on the Fall Street property. McDonald said after obtaining the required engineering report and applying for a building permit, the code department said it could not issue the permit. County officials cited Local Law 2 of 2006.
County Attorney Frank Fisher argued that McDonald was in violation of the local law, which does not allow building permits to be issued by the county if the property owner has unpaid county property taxes that are more than 90 days in arrears.
“This is, and never has been, an issue of paying property taxes. I’ve paid over $33,000 in property taxes this year alone,” McDonald said in a written statement. “It’s an issue of public safety and Seneca County is the only county in the state that has such a law.”
“We respectfully disagree with the judge’s reasoning,” Fisher said. “The county codes department will continue its efforts to enforce reasonable standards and housing safety in Seneca Falls, as required by the New York State Building and Fire Code.”
Fisher added he had “no reason to believe that the codes department will do anything other than to continue to enforce the code.”
“If repairs that would require a building permit were effected on a property and no permit was obtained for that purpose, I would expect that a citation would be issued on that violation,” he said.