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Dan Hust | Democrat

Monticello Village Manager John Barbarite often simply listened to a barrage of complaints about his job performance, but at several points during Monday’s meeting, he disputed landlords’ allegations.

Rental permit proposal draws fire in Monticello

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — November 5, 2010 — A room packed full of landlords and tenants expressed deep worry to the Monticello Village Board Monday night that a proposed rental permit law would put them out of both home and business.
The new law, if enacted by the board, would require a permit for every single rented residential unit in the village, according to attorney for the board Dominic Cordisco.
He denied it would change existing village building code standards but acknowledged that every rental unit would need to get a permit, no matter how long it’s been rented in Monticello.
“There are no buildings grandfathered under this law,” he said.
Not a word of support emanated from the crowd during Monday’s public hearing at the regular village board meeting.
“You guys are making it too hard for everybody,” accused Nella Vrancich, a Broadway landlady. “... You’re killing us!”
“In every direction we look, there’s another bill, another fee,” complained Jenny Hilton, who runs Colonial Hill Apartments. “... The people I work for have properties in all different states, and they want to pull out of Sullivan County now.”
Like many other landlords who spoke that night, Hilton decried the proposed law as unfair and unnecessary.
“Why can’t we just follow the rules that are there now?” she wondered.
Mayor Gordon Jenkins said there would be no “back-and-forth,” but when speakers began to blame Village Manager John Barbarite for the situation, the hearing turned into a heated debate.
Landlord Ray Lustig, who has been involved in court battles with the village over his North Street property, said Barbarite is crafting a “master plan.”
“Mr. Barbarite is carving this law out so he can become the person to enforce it,” Lustig alleged, saying Barbarite would gain job security by becoming a Civil Service employee.
Charging Lustig’s remarks bordered on a personal attack, Barbarite replied that his accusations were false and unfounded.
“Where you came up with this fantasy, I don’t know,” Barbarite said to Lustig, noting that the village has prevailed in the litigation with Lustig, though it’s cost thousands of dollars.
But attacks on Barbarite continued through much of the hearing, with landlords accusing the manager of overstepping his authority, harassing property owners with burdensome regulations and frequent inspections, hurting their business opportunities and costing them as much as $42,000 to address violations both legitimate and not.
Another landlord in litigation with the village, Aida Markisic, said this proposed law will only expand upon that.
“This is a personal vendetta against people like me and other landlords in the village,” she alleged, arguing that it is hurting the village’s growth.
“This has to stop,” Markisic demanded, to vigorous applause from the audience. “You guys can’t keep running into lawsuits after lawsuits.”
The mayor, however, said some of the landlords are responsible for the necessity of this new law.
“I’ve been through a lot of your apartments, and I was not happy [with the conditions],” he told the crowd. “... What I’m saying is, if you’re going to do business in this village, give your tenant a comfortable place to live, not a coffin!”
Jenkins’ recent trip to Newburgh added more impetus.
“If we don’t take control of our village with these absentee landlords and violations of buildings,” he remarked, “we will be the next Newburgh.”
He accused much of the crowd of being the troublesome landlords, which drew heated exclamations from the audience.
“Some of the people that are here, it’s a lot of personal issues,” Jenkins claimed – and Barbarite after the meeting agreed, saying Lustig had organized this group to come to the meeting.
“I don’t want to make this personal, but it is personal,” remarked a Connecticut landlord, Garson Kannon. “... If my money’s going here [to pay for permits and legal paperwork], it can’t go into my property.”
But there were a few non-personal comments made, from tenants concerned about higher rents, and from landlords fearful of the law’s stipulation that non-complying rental units must be shut down for six months.
“Is there a grace period? It’s a little vague,” lamented Scott Rhine, who is the senior property manager for Sleepy Hollow. “... We certainly don’t want to lose revenue on a unit for six months.”
The board has yet to vote on the law, and those with questions or further comments were invited to talk with Jenkins and/or Barbarite directly at the village hall.
Written comments will continue to be accepted through this Tuesday and can be mailed to the village board at 2 Pleasant St., Monticello, NY 12701.
After the meeting, Barbarite said some of the landlords had legitimate concerns. But others, he said, have longstanding battles with the village and have histories of building violations.
He added that he has always responded to the issues in a legal and appropriate manner, and based on some comments, there could be further changes in the proposed law.
“We work with people” on their issues, Barbarite promised.
The board may vote on the matter at the next meeting, set for Tuesday, November 16 at 7 p.m. at the village hall.
Whether it will pass remains uncertain. While Jenkins and Deputy Mayor TC Hutchins have indicated they’re favorable to the new law, trustees Carmen Rue and Victor Marinello are opposed.
Trustee James Matthews was absent Monday night.

Rental permit law
Here’s a summary of what Monticello officials are proposing to become Chapter 202 of the Village Code, titled “Rental Permits”:
• Every residential unit now or to be up for rent must have a permit.
• Each permit will cost $100 per building, plus $10 per unit within it, which can be altered at any time by the village board.
• Every permit must be renewed annually, at the same cost as above.
• No permit will be issued until the code enforcement officer or their designee has conducted an on-site inspection of the rental unit.
• Village inspectors can make visits, with the property owner’s permission, “from time to time,” and an existing permit can be revoked if violations are found and/or the inspector believes “repeated occurrences of disorderly conduct” are endangering the public.
• If the village decides not to renew a permit, or if an existing permit is revoked, the permit holder has the right to request a hearing, at a cost to them of $100, which must be held by the Zoning Board of Appeals within a month of the request being made.
Such a hearing is public and allows for witnesses on both sides, with a decision being rendered within 10 days thereafter.
• If a permit revocation stands, the rental unit will not be eligible for a new permit for at least the next six months.
• No solicitations or advertisements of a non-permitted rental unit will be allowed, unless they are made by a real estate salesperson.
• Violations of any provision of this law will be punishable by a fine of at least $500 on the first offense and at least $1,000 on the second and subsequent offenses, with up to 15 days in jail on any offense.
• For an e-mailed copy of the law, contact Village Manager John Barbarite at 794-6130.

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