POINT PLEASANT — The City of Point Pleasant is attempting to address the issue of vacant and abandoned buildings with the passage of an ordinance dealing with that issue.
The first reading of the proposed ordinance passed last month and a public hearing on it is set for 6:50 p.m. this Monday at the Point Pleasant Municipal Building. If no objections are presented at the hearing, the ordinance is set to be read for a second time and voted upon for passage at council’s regular meeting which follows at 7 p.m. the same night.
The purpose for the ordinance is spelled out as follows: “The City has determined that uninspected and unmonitored vacant and/or abandoned buildings (1) present a fire hazard; (2) are often utilized by vagrants and transients (including drug abusers and traffickers) as dangerous and unsafe temporary shelters; (3) detract from private and/or public efforts to rehabilitate or maintain surrounding buildings; and (4) require additional regulation and services to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public.”
The ordinance provides definitions of abandoned and vacant buildings. The ordinance also contains a registration section which states owners of vacant and or abandoned building(s) as defined in the ordinance, will be required to register the structures with the city within 30 days of notification from the city of said vacancy, make payment of a fee for said registration as set forth herein, and otherwise conform to the requirements of the building ordinance. There is a registration fee of $25 which will be billed by the city and be paid when the property has been registered. However, owners of a building(s) vacant and/or abandoned for one year will be required to pay $100 per month, except for those buildings that are actively being advertised for sale or for rent.
The ordinance goes on to say, registration will be required for all vacant and/or abandoned buildings which have been vacant and/or abandoned for thirty consecutive days or more.
At the time of registration, the city’s building inspector and/or the chief of police and/or authorized agent of the city can determine whether or not a property should be inspected to identify any public safety issues. Inspections may also be made to determine the occupancy or vacancy of a structure. If an internal inspection is deemed necessary, the owner shall allow access. If access is denied or if owner fails to arrange for the inspection, the city will seek a search warrant from a court of competent jurisdiction. Said inspection shall determine the structural integrity of the building, the repairs necessary to insure its structural integrity, and the safety of entering the building by firefighters or police officers in time of emergency, and the presence or lack of a fire hazard.
The ordinance states “it is the intent of this article that, through a registration and inspection process, and other improved public safety efforts, vacant and/or abandoned buildings will be kept weathertight and secure from trespassers, will provide safe entry to police officers and firefighters in times of emergency, will not impede private and/or public efforts to rehabilitate or maintain surrounding properties, and will not otherwise present a public hazard.”
The ordinance also provides for due process and hearings for individuals before the City’s Enforcement Committee on the question of whether a building is vacant or abandoned. The City’s Enforcement Committee will be composed of the City’s Building Inspector, the City’s Chief of Police, and either the City’s Fire Chief or the Director of the Mason County Health Department, or an appointee of the mayor.
If the majority of the Enforcement Committee present at such hearing find that said building(s) is vacant or abandoned, the Committee shall enter an order requiring that such building(s) be closed or demolished or set forth such repairs as are considered necessary. The order shall fix a date when such work shall be completed, which, for good cause shown, may be extended by the Enforcement Committee.
The owner(s) shall, within the time fixed in the order, notify the Committee of his intention to comply with the order; in which case, the work shall be done under the supervision of the City’s building inspector or the appointee of the mayor. Each phase of the work shall be inspected, including but not limited to the plumbing and the electrical installations or improvements, by a qualified inspector, approved by the City. When the work has been completed in accordance with the order of the Committee, an order shall be entered approving the work and closing the case.
If within the time provided in the order, the owner(s) fails to notify the Committee and do the work required, the Committee may proceed to have such work done, either by contract or by the purchase of necessary materials and the employment of workers and equipment.
Under the portion of the ordinance for assessing and collecting costs, there is a section that provides for reimbursement to the city for work done to the vacant or abandoned property, including the right to file a lien against the property.
Upon the owner’s failure to comply with provisions of the ordinance, any member of the Enforcement Committee or the mayor’s appointee shall have the authority to go upon and inspect any building (s) deemed vacant or abandoned and may secure said building(s) pursuant to the boarding procedures as set forth herein. That upon the same, the owner shall be assessed and responsible for all costs and fees incurred by the City of Point Pleasant to secure said building(s) in addition to any fine or cost imposed by the municipal court judge.
Under penalties, the ordinance states whoever violates any section within this article for which no other penalty is provided shall be fined not more than $500 or imprisoned not more than thirty days or both. Each day such violation continues shall constitute a separate offense. This penalty is in addition to the $100 monthly fee due the city for the vacant property.
(Editor’s note, this article reported only portions of the ordinance. The entire ordinance will be available for review at Monday’s hearing.)
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.
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