Saratoga Springs reducing zombie properties

September 13, 2017 06:22 PM

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The building at 38 Sicada Street was looking a little scary.

The Saratoga Springs townhome had been abandoned for several years and the owner was nowhere to be found. However, when the zombie property was auctioned off, Rob and Jane Keyser weren't afraid.

"It looked like a haunted house when we first saw it. Even our kids said, 'What are you thinking? It's a haunted house,'" said Jane.

Turns out what they got was a structurally sound home that needed mostly cosmetic work.

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Before the Keysers bought and beautified it, 38 Sicada was one of about 130 homes in the city that had been abandoned by owners or banks.

"We're down to 86 properties we're still trying to hop on board with banks or private owners to comply," said Jack Donnelly, city code administrator.

The city recently added more staff to track down zombie properties, including a recent law school grad who'll prosecute zombie owners.

"As much as we want to be tough with vacant property, and that's critical, a huge part of this is keeping people in their homes, keeping properties from becoming vacant in the first place," said John Daley, who'll become a full-fledged prosecutor if he finds out he passed the bar exam he took in July.

The city's also starting a new outreach program for homeowners at risk of losing their homes, eager to keep them from just walking away.

As for the Keysers, they bought the zombie home at auction with the plan to sell it, but are living there for now.

"What we bought it for and what we anticipate selling it for, is going to be well worth it," said Rob Keyser.

It'll be worth it for the neighbors whose property values go up, and for the city who gets another once-abandoned home back on the tax rolls.


Mark Mulholland

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