City paper streets policy proposed

A policy to streamline and organize the sale of “paper streets” in Dunkirk was proposed by city Attorney Michael Bobseine and other city officials last month.

It’s just a draft and subject to change, but was put together “from the experiences we’ve had and the discussions that took place,” Bobseine told a Common Council workshop. An application for acquiring paper streets hasn’t been drafted yet “because we want to see what the council thinks.”

Paper streets are municipally owned right-of-ways, intended for roads that never went in. Dunkirk often seeks to sell them to owners of adjacent properties, but enacted a moratorium on the sales a couple months ago amid various disputes over them.

Bobseine said he envisions the City Clerk issuing applications, with the law department acting as “essentially… the clearing house for the application.” It would solicit and gather responses from the assessor, Department of Public Works, and Planning and Development Department before making a decision.

Those officials would get involved because the city might “have easements we might want to continue or ensure we have.” They would also “protect the city’s interests.”

Bobseine went on to say that time frames for adjacent property owners to buy paper streets are proposed, at the recommendation of Assessor Erica Munson. He also proposed that it would be up to the mayor to declare a property abandoned and then recommend a price for it.

Munson said, “There are a couple things we should talk about tweaking. We might want to clearly define who can buy what. … Some parcels run four to 10 parcels deep, are we going to let one neighbor buy 10 parcels?”

She added that a formula for selling abandoned properties including paper streets should be consistent no matter who the mayor is. “I think that might shut that back door on people saying, ‘oh, they’re friends.’ Or ‘oh, he doesn’t or she doesn’t like me.'”

Munson also suggested merging acquired properties into the previous parcel so it can be sold as one in the future.

In follow-up comments to the OBSERVER last week, Bobseine stated, “The suggested sales price should involve a transparent and uniform ‘formula’ which might be related to the assessed value of the ‘primary’ property (i.e., the property that whatever portion of a paper street is being merged into). (Erica Munson, Assessor, will likely suggest a possible formula).

“The paper street, upon sale, must be merged into the primary property for tax assessment purposes (which will likely require more than a simple Quit Claim Deed).

“We need to be certain as to the ‘implied’ rights of the persons seeking to purchase whatever portions of the paper streets.”


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