City Commissioners unanimously adopted Ordinance No. 6650 during Tuesday’s regular meeting, which is designed to make it more difficult for property owners to leave buildings vacant and in disrepair. The ordinance creates a vacant property registry, which has a fee associated and penalties for non-registration.
The ordinance requires the owner of a vacant building to register within 60 days of vacancy. The registration fee is $25 for residential buildings and $100 for commercial buildings – unless the property is bank or commercially owned foreclosure property. If the property is a foreclosure, the registration fee is $1,000 per residential building and $2,000 per commercial building.
The fees can be waived at the request of the owner if the property has had no code violations for at least 12 months, and after an inspection by the city building inspector. Properties can be exempt from the fee if the buildings are actively marketed for rent or sale, or by affidavit if the plan is to reinhabit the building within 180 days. Properties that have delinquent property taxes will not be eligible for exemption.
There are also penalties (which must be paid in addition to the applicable fees) for non-registration, up to $400/year. If properties remain vacant for longer than a year, the registration fee goes up to $250 per residential property and $500 per commercial property, with annual increases of 10% per year for each subsequent year of vacancy.
Properties exempt from the fees still must be registered, at risk of penalty for non-registration.
If a vacant property changes ownership, the new owner has 30 days to inhabit or update the registration of the property. If a registration fee has already been paid on that property for that calendar year, the new owner does not have to pay another fee for the rest of the year.
The ordinance will go into effect immediately, but City staff is going to implement the provisions over about a six-month period to give residents and effected parties time to become familiar with the details of the registry.
The ordinance was a recommendation from the Vacant Housing Task Force that was appointed in March of 2020. The Task Force met multiple times over the ensuing months and sent its official report to the City Commission in January.
In other business Tuesday, commissioners authorized the purchase of an asphalt roller, heavy trailer and mower for Public Works, and also appointed Seth Fox to fill an unexpired term on the Airport Advisory Board and appointed Kurt Schlanker to a 4-year term on the Parks Board.
Commissioners adjourned to a Landbank meeting after the commission meeting – the commissioners also act as the Landbank Board. The lone Landbank meeting item was the potential sale of Walt Wilburn Park. That item was tabled until March 1.
The next regular city commission meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Monday, March 1.