Despite Rosendale’s storybook charm and attractions such as the Trestle, the independent theater, and the river that runs through Main Street, the town’s real estate market isn’t living up to its potential. The already-low median sales price for Rosendale homes declined by 17 percent last year, according to Trulia.com, while sales figures in neighboring towns such as Hurley and Kingston ballooned by 36 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
Thanks to Rosendale’s aging housing stock and its lax approach to enforcing building-code compliance, a perfectly nice house may be surrounded by wrecks. Many outrageous conditions aren’t even covered by the current code, which was adopted in 2006 and sorely needs updating. It isn’t unusual to see a tarp being used as permanent roofing, plywood sheets slapped up to repair a fence, big rotting piles of wood in a front yard, or even someone living in an RV in a driveway. One of my neighbors keeps six dogs in a 500-square-foot house on 0.2 acres of land. But none of these are code violations, according to Rosendale Code Enforcement Officer Nicholas Wulczyn, who declined comment for this story.
“Surrounding properties in bad shape can make it difficult or impossible to sell a house,” says Steven Asher Cohen, an associate broker at Berkshire Hathaway Nutshell Realty in High Falls. “Rosendale is a little more rundown than neighboring towns, and it doesn’t have that many high-end homes. You’ve got to find the right buyer who doesn’t mind that.”
On the small private road where I live, there are about 10 homes, one of which is condemned. Another is in foreclosure, and one has had countless code violations over the years. While trying to sell the second house that I bought and fixed up on the road, I got feedback from prospective buyers that they loved the house but were turned off by the dilapidated houses that flank it (the condemned house and the one with code violations).
I repeatedly have asked town officials to take action to clean up these shabby properties, but the issues persist. The condemned house has been in that condition for at least 10 years and probably much longer. I gave town officials the name of the owner and told them he lives in Rosendale, yet they say they haven’t been able to track him down. And when I expressed an idea I had to make the road more habitable and marketable by clearing a long strip of waterfront land that I own and attaching a piece of it to the condemned house’s parcel, which might then be worth buying and fixing up, I was met with resistance from the Planning Board. Rather, the board members were fixated on the fact that the changes I proposed would involve — gasp! — getting a variance. “We don’t care about property values,” one board member actually said.
Maybe they should. The combination of this backward attitude and lack of housing-code enforcement, along with an outdated code, undercut Rosendale’s competitiveness in the real estate market. They form a barrier to attracting the new, more affluent residents that Rosendale needs to rehabilitate its deteriorating houses and boost its tax base, especially given that its population has dipped by nearly six percent over the past 10 years.
The Williams Lake Project, an upscale resort and residential community that has been in the planning stages for a decade, doesn’t seem poised to change the situation. If Williams Lake ever does get off the ground, I doubt the owners will be able to find enough people willing to pay big bucks for Rosendale real estate. The resale value just isn’t there.
At a recent Rosendale Town Board meeting, I was the only resident present, besides an elderly man who seemed to have come for the company. Have Rosendale residents just given up? I wondered. Town Supervisor Jeanne Walsh responded to my criticisms by scolding, “You have been a very difficult resident to deal with.” In other words, the problem is me.
I think Rosendale needs a lot more difficult residents to shake up its complacent leadership and help boost its economy. Otherwise, the town will continue to lag behind its neighbors and never realize its potential. And many Rosendale residents will continue to have neighbors who rack up code violations and depress the town’s property values.