Burnet Road residents near White Pine blame Onondaga County for neglected properties, crime
Homeowners on Burnet Road in Clay are blaming Onondaga County for the deteriorating condition of numerous vacant homes that are beginning to attract crime. The county has purchased about two dozen properties since 2019 to expand the White Pine Commerce Park in hopes of landing a semiconductor plant.
Paul Richer has lived on Burnet Road his entire life and intends to retire there.
"I've never seen houses in such disrepair. It's just disgusting to see something like this every time I come down the road. I live at the farthest end of the road, so I drive by these houses everyday."
Richer says they fear for their safety. In less than two weeks, there have been three break ins at homes where the former owners are in the process of moving out.
Most of Burnet Road looks like a ghost town. Abandoned homes now owned by the county are overrun by weeds. Front porches have collapsed. One home is boarded up. A garage and barn on different properties are wide open with debris scattered inside and out. Chad Reese is assistant director of activism with the institute for Justice, which is representing the remaining homeowners.
"The home behind me that's fallen into disrepair is the perfect symbol for what happens when Onondaga County thinks that it, not the people who have property rights to the homes that they and their families have lived in for generations, can decide what to do with property," Reese said, referring to 8668 Burnet.
He says they’re reaching out to supporters of Save Burnet Road to urge them to file code violations with the town of Clay.
"Burnet Road is only in this shape because Onondaga County decided that the way to solve their wasted millions of dollars and decades trying to do something with the still vacant White Pine Commerce Park was to add still more vacant land."
Long-time resident Britta Serog estimates the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency, or OCIDA, has spent $16 million taxpayer dollars acquiring over a thousand acres of land, displacing three dozen families over the past three years.
"We're under threat of eminent domain for a year now. They approved their own use of eminent domain. They are just shopping for a company to put on the land, They don't have a company. Meanwhile, they're threatening us and marketing our property. That doesn't seem right."
Chad Reese says the town and county need to be held to the same property standards that they require everyone else to follow.
"It's the responsibility of the county executive and OCIDA to realize that real harm is not OK in the face of more empty promises."