There’s support on the Kingston Common Council for ‘vacancy tax’ on empty commercial space

The Common Council is weighing a new zoning ordinance that would levy fines against commercial property owners who fail to lease out their storefronts in a timely manner. Ward 5 Alderman Don Tallerman said that he proposed the new law in response to property owners who, he believes, are not making a good faith effort to market and lease properties in the city’s business districts.

“Vacant storefronts are a blight on the community,” said Tallerman, a Democrat. “They bring down real estate values, they bring down the well being of the community, they are all around bad.”

Tallerman’s proposal would target commercial properties with storefronts that have stood vacant for six months or more. The law would only apply to buildings in the city’s Stockade district, the Broadway commercial corridor and the Rondout business district. Owners of long vacant storefronts would be hit with monthly fees. Those fees would be set at $300 per month for retail spaces between 500 and 2,000 square feet and $600 per month for those between 2,000 and 4,000 square feet. Under an early draft of the proposal the largest commercial properties would face monthly fines of $100,000, but Tallerman said that figure would likely be lowered in the final version.

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Tallerman added that the law would exempt property owners who could demonstrate a valid reason for not finding tenants. “We will definitely make exceptions for owners who are having hardships,” said Tallerman. “But they would have to prove that they are actively marketing their property at a fair price.”

Tallerman said he introduced the legislation to combat what he believed was an increasingly speculative real estate market in the city’s business districts. Tallerman said he believes new investors were buying buildings at high prices and leaving them vacant as tax write-offs while waiting for their resale value to increase. Meanwhile, Tallerman said, the increase in vacant storefronts was hurting existing businesses.

“People are hoping for appreciation [in property values] which is what they’re used to in New York City, but it’s not something that happens here,” said Tallerman. “In Kingston you don’t make money on appreciation, you make it on current cash flow.”

Tallerman’s proposal is currently before the Common Council’s Laws & Rules Committee. Council Majority Leader Rennie Scott Childress (D-Ward 3) said he supports the legislation and believes that “some version” of the proposal would be enacted. Scott-Childress said the committee would work to figure out a fee schedule that creates an incentive for property owners to fill storefronts, without being overly burdensome.

“I think what it will come down to is finding the right number that will actually motivate a property owner to act,” said Scott-Childress.

There are 6 comments

  1. Fine Me

    Wow talk about illegal overreach As long as the property is in compliance with the NYS Property and Maintenance Code there is not a law in NYS that provides for such a law even in socialism Kingston. Kingston’s inept legal department better seek outside counsel on this one.

  2. tyler

    One is going to expect, then, that Kingston will also fine private all home owners who do not keep their property up to community standards — keep your house painted, keep your bushes trimmed, keep your grass trimmed, no storage on porches, no “stuff” in yards, no hoarding, non of the nonsenset hat goes on in every neighborhood in town?

    Point being…

  3. TheRedDogParty

    There are other solutions to vacant storefronts. If Kingston had someone who could serve as an ‘Arts Officer’, he or she could enact programs to make use of vacant spaces. In my travels through the UK and Ireland (as part of the Ulster to Ulster Artists Exchange), every community had an Arts Officer. In Pittsfield, Massachusetts, an arts officer/coordinator position was created 15 – 20 years ago (I’m not sure if the position still exists). I traveled there to learn what I could, and discovered the program where artists could create installations in vacant storefronts. In my opinion, the program was wildly successful, and I lobbied for the creation of such a position in Kingston.

    Sign me up – I’d love to have a vacant storefront in mid-town for an installation.

  4. wowjustwow

    Mr. Tallerman is new to the area so perhaps he doesn’t realize that the old Woolworth and Yallum’s buildings have been vacant for decades. Next: commercial rent control.

  5. Bill Berardi

    The individual alderman quoted in this article seem to have reasons in their minds for this although it is obvious they are striking out at “certain” individuals because they already propose exemptions for very subjective reasons – like they are making good faith efforts (code for the Good Old Boys Club). They really think people deliberately don’t rent spaces because they want a tax deduction? As an income tax person I can tell you that is ridiculous. And anyone who disagrees with that can send our firm a check and take the tax deduction – we will gladly claim the extra income and pay the taxes. The landlords pass on the HIGH COMMERCIAL TAXES to the tenants – so it is this very same Alderman who make vacancies – the only issue in business is cost – unless of course you are in the Good Old Boys Club that get special assessments and PILOTS.

  6. Pope Francis

    Just another money grab by the Dumbocrats! Seriously, do you think owners want vacant storefronts?

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