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Proposed public nuisance policy unconstitutional

by Kristina Livingston - Executive Editor
Tue, Nov 28th 2017 09:20 pm

The previously proposed public nuisance law in spring of 2017 has officially reached a decision within the Brockport Village Board as of the board’s newest newsletter release on November 13. The policy was found to be unconstitutional under both NYS law and federal law. To determine the outcome of the law, the Village Board met with landlords, resident homeowners and administrators and student leaders within the college community. According to the November 13 newsletter, as it was created, the public nuisance law was designed to address “problem properties” in Brockport, of which those found to have met a specific amount of violations would be closed down.

According to the Village at Brockport Codes, the policy was structured so as to dole out points to properties based on offenses. Regarding any offense involving firearms or other dangerous weapons, the most amount of points were eight. The system ranks other varying offenses in according with their severity, earning residents six, four or three points. Mayor Margay Blackman’s Summary of Proposed Public Nuisance Legislation states that “a property which accumulates 12 or more points within a period of six months or 18 or more points within a period of 12 months will be deemed a public nuisance.”

The subject of two NYS Supreme Court Appellate Division court cases, these having occurred June 15 and October 23. These cases were instrumental in proving the unconstitutional nature of the law, with the first, the Groton Case, held in Groton, New York brought to light foreseeable issues which could arise if the law were to be enacted. One specifically is that Brockport tenants’ right to call the police to their residence has the potential to label the property as a public nuisance. The Rochester case involved tenants and the owner of a property being completely removed from previous illegal drug sales which took place on the property based on public nuisance points that had been accumulated.

According to Westside News Inc., Mayor Blackman does not believe that the delay in implementing a public nuisance policy does not hinder the concerns villagers and 

students alike may have regarding any quality of life issues.

“Accordingly, we are taking steps, short of legislation, to address these issues,” Mayor Blackman said. “We have pursued police records to locate trouble sports in student village housing regarding noise violations and disorderly house arrests.”

Additional coverage of the law’s failure to move forward will appear in The Suburban News’ online newsletter Saturday, December 2.

 “What they [the Village Board] are looking for is comfort for the residents of the Village of Brockport,” BSG Vice President Joshua Mathews said. “Being a college town, it can be a little bit more hectic. With public nuisance, the first thing that comes to mind is partying. They’re trying to figure out how to counter that by tacking on the points to … properties rented out to college students.”

Mathews stated that the Village Board has been taking steps to increase student representation in local government, with this desired coexistent relationship being much of why the board is being careful as to not discriminate against the student community.

Currently, Mathews main concern is the possible reaction of students to avoid gaining points on a property, leading to potential safety issues in overcrowding when containing parties to out of sight.

“As it was originally proposed [the policy] was more of a punishment,” Mathews said.

The board is in the process of researching the handling of public nuisance issues within other municipalities so as to best revise an appropriate policy, while encouraging landlords to include details within their leases which prohibit violations of the disorderly house ordinance and for village residents to dial 911 in the case of possible noise violations or a uncontrolled party.

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