OSWEGO, NY – The Neighborhood Quality of Life Committee is seeking council approval for the reinstatement of the city Zoning Enforcement Officer, according to Connie Cosemento, chair.
At its meeting Monday night, the Administrative Services Committee recommended the mayor be authorized to seek funding to fill the position.
The salary and benefits were a stumbling block for one councilor.
Fourth Ward Councilor Shawn Walker agrees with the plan in principle. However, the cost of the full-time position ($49,000 per year) would be more than $100,000 with benefits, he noted. Residents are struggling with their taxes and sewer fees, he said, adding they won’t be in favor of funding another position.
He suggested the possibility of making the position part-time.
“If we have the job, it should be full-time,” said Tony Leotta the city’s zoning administrator. “Part-time won’t work.”
The Neighborhood Quality of Life Committee has completed its sixth meeting to address the goal of increasing the percentage of owner occupied properties in the city. The 2000 census identified the owner occupied rate at 48% and lower in various portions of the Port City.
According to Cosemento, the consequences of a high rate of rentals became nuisance concerns including density, garbage, parking, noise and aesthetics.
“Collectively, these issues lower property values, discourage families from considering choosing Oswego as a community of choice, stress city services as well as health services and the school district,” she said.
“During the elections last year, after the consent decree, quality of life was the biggest issue,” Fifth Ward Councilor Dan Donovan pointed out. “This is our chance to do something proactively to address the issue.”
The committee has studied how other communities are dealing with similar situations and the history of Oswego’s experiences.
The present condition of nuisance problems is partially due to a lack of attention to responsibility of the property owner, especially at a time when rentals have been on a steady increase, Cosemento pointed out.
Committee members have reviewed the local laws pertaining with zoning, parking, property maintenance and noise.
Oswego has had and does have court tested laws that effectively deal with these issues. Other communities are still legislating local laws to eliminate or control nuisances, Cosemento said, adding, Oswego is actually a leader in this respect.
Oswego’s zoning enforcement officer position was eliminated but the job description was held for future consideration, she said.
During the last 12 years or so, code enforcement, the police and fire departments, councilors, the DPW, animal control and zoning have assumed the duty of enforcement, Cosemento explained.
The added responsibility for each department has resulted in less time for effectively carrying out normal duties, more overtime, inconsistent decisions, consideration by complaint rather than proactive enforcement, and addressing concerns that aren’t part of their normal job description, the former councilor pointed out.
The citizens of Oswego have voiced their request for more enforcement, she said.
Increasing the number of owner occupied properties is a long-term undertaking and the committee is in the process of identifying and putting a number of activities in place for recommendation.
The committee recognizes that the significance of making a positive impact for the community as soon as possible and unanimously recommends that this would best be achieved by reinstating the position of zoning enforcement officer as soon as possible, Cosemento told the councilors.
“We are losing value in our properties because our quality of life is being challenged,” Cosemento said. “We are losing as a community.”
“This is something we need to get behind,” said Council President Ron Kaplewicz.
The full council will consider the request at next Monday’s meeting.