Vacancy ordinance explored to reduce number of empty buildings | News, Sports, Jobs

City officials have started considering a vacancy ordinance that would target owners of commercial buildings / land who have usually shown no intention of developing them.

The issue was discussed at a recent city infested property review board committee. No formal action has been taken and future discussions on this matter have been encouraged.

Pushed by City Councilor Bonnie Katz, the ordinance works in other third-class code towns and surfaced years ago when Chelsea Blair was a city planner.

Today, Blair, who is the Deputy City Manager for the Department of Community and Economic Development, continued to research how these vacant buildings / land can become productive tax-paying properties.

Katz referred to the void “Hoyer building” on West Fourth Street.

“The empty building is such a horror” she said.

Other owners leave homes vacant for years, allowing buildings to sit idle, and there are permits and fees that they could be assessed.

“I think it would hit them in their pocket”, Katz said.

Typically, what happens during the first year of vacancy, the owner is usually wise to develop a business plan to develop the property.

In some ordinances, the owner (s) must register the property at the beginning of the following year.

In the second year, if they have plans going, they have to work with the respective municipality and have an actual plan and apply for a waiver in the first year of the permit, Blair said.

Usually, Blair said, the third year is the last year for the waiver.

The first-year permit costs around $ 500 and in some circumstances can be a permit or fee submitted twice a year to the municipality, she said.

“Over the years, the costs increase” Blair said.

Anything that’s generally above the 10-year marker is $ 5,000, and any additional amount after the 10-year mark is $ 500 more, she said.

“There are different ways to plan” she said.

The ordinances reviewed by Blair define what it means to have vacant property.

“Some municipalities have it as a percentage”, Blair said.

For example, the municipal by-law may say that if 60% of the building is vacant, it should be registered as a vacant building.

There are registration and license fees, programming fees and waivers that are identified in other city ordinances.

Patrick Marty, chairman of the committee, asked Blair if the vacancy percentage scale is codified in state law or decided by the municipality.

“It’s decided by the municipality”, Blair said. “We would work with the lawyer on this.”

“I would not want to confuse a property whose codes comply with the properties that can be submitted to this committee”, Marty said.

Another city official offered some additional clarification to allay Marty’s concern.

“How the prescription would read has not yet been determined, but all of these variables can be incorporated into it,” said Skip Memmi, city manager of the Ministry of Community and Economic Development.

This ordinance can be drafted in multiple ways, and the city can set the time period, building percentage, fines or registration fees for it and whether or not inspections are required, Memmi said.

Either way, it is paramount to be specific that it is intended to resolve repeat offenders versus someone who has a vacant building and for reasons of economic hardship cannot meet the deadlines. It’s not about penalizing the hapless business owner and the city wants to make sure it hits the people who are creating the problem and not suffering economic hardship, Memmi said.

A sliding scale would make sense, Marty said, adding that anyone who owns a building in the central business district should be able to cover the vacancy permit fee of $ 500 or probably shouldn’t be. owner.

The waiver element would allow the business owner to explain their economic difficulties and give them time to develop an economic development business plan to get the building back on track, Blair said.

Those present at the committee meeting indicated that the matter would likely be discussed at future meetings.

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