NORTH TONAWANDA – The Common Council proposed a local law Tuesday that would offer a 10-year tax rebate to property owners who “deconvert” multiple-family housing to single-family homes.
If approved, the “Deconversion Tax Rebate” would offer eligible homeowners an annual rebate of $1,000 per year for 10 years.
The Council will hold a public hearing on the proposal at 6 p.m. July 2. If adopted, the local law must be approved by New York’s secretary of state.
City Attorney Shawn P. Nickerson said North Tonawanda has a number of large, stately homes in the older parts of the city that were “sliced and diced” into apartments.
Nickerson, who drafted the legislation, said the city has been talking about the plan for quite some time, noting that it was proposed by Council President Richard L. Andres Jr.
“What this legislation would do is give property owners an incentive to convert these properties that have been sliced up, back into single-family homes,” Nickerson said. “It’s about quality of life.”
Andres said he noticed the increasing number of apartment houses four years ago as he ran for office, especially in older parts of the city, where larger homes had been fitted to accommodate double or even triple apartments.
He said they found that one-third of North Tonawanda’s houses are rental units.
Andres said single-family homeowners, in most cases, take better care of their properties.
This legislation would not require people to change, but encourage them to convert, Andres said.
“Single-family residences don’t come with the problems of most multifamily units,” said Mayor Robert G. Ortt.
“In some cases, there are no problems, but there are other areas where the character of the neighborhood has changed. You’ve got these big old houses that have been carved up into multiunit dwellings – especially in parts of the city that tended to historically be single-family dwellings.”
Other communities have tried deconversion tax incentives, Nickerson said, but he believes that North Tonawanda may be the first to do so in Western New York.
“Neighborhoods that used to be great neighborhoods are run-down. We are trying to be a family community. We want the city to be like it used to be,” Andres said. “We are encouraging this because we want what’s best for North Tonawanda.”
“I think if we can return some of neighborhoods to the way they historically used to be, it can only be a good thing,” Ortt said.
In another matter, the Council passed a resolution to rename Bluebird Lane, off Wurlitzer Drive. The road leads to the new Super Walmart.
No new names have been proposed at this point.
Third Ward Alderman Eric M. Zadzilka, who proposed the renaming, noted that the road was once home to the Bluebird Bus garage, which was torn down several years ago to make way for the new Super Walmart.