DG Blight 1

The former Asiana restaurant at 123-125 N. Market St. in Frederick.

Members of Frederick’s third unofficial blight committee believe the right tools already exist to address perpetually blighted buildings. Leaders just need to enforce them.

That was one of several recommendations members of an ad hoc group made to the mayor and Board of Aldermen at a workshop Wednesday.

The eight-member Property Revitalization Committee — made up of community and business representatives and an aldermanic liaison — met for the first time in April 2017 and proceeded to meet regularly for a year.

It was the third committee tasked to research blighted and problem properties and code enforcement issues within the city over the past several years. Its mission was to piggyback on the efforts of the previous committees and come up with recommendations to carry out the central goals.

The group broke into three subcommittees to address metrics and hurdles, beautification, and awards and accolades. Last month, committee members wrapped up their work and opted to dissolve.

“We didn’t feel that this needed to be a standing committee,” committee Chairman Tony Checchia said while presenting the final report. “We felt like the work is there and there could be action items taken from this.”

Most notably, he said, the action items include a recommendation to enact the city’s receivership ordinance on two long-dilapidated downtown properties: the former Asiana restaurant at 123-125 N. Market St. and the building that once housed That Cuban Place at 300 N. Market St.

“We feel the legal rights are there. It’s really the will,” Checchia said. “The receivership ordinance, from our interpretation of it, provides the legal means for the tool to be in the toolbox for the city, should the city choose to decide to take that action to the next level.”

The city’s receivership program was established through an ordinance in 2013. In 2016, it went through revisions that Checchia said gave it “more teeth.”

The program gives city officials the ability to take the owners of habitually vacant, unsafe and nuisance properties to court. A judge can either force the owner to make upgrades, or seize the property from the owner and sell it to a qualified owner with requirements attached to fix it up within a specified time period. The revision added to the language owners of condemned properties and owners of properties who have not made court-ordered repairs stemming from violations.

The two buildings the members named have infamously topped vacant and blighted property lists for years. Duk Hee Ro, the co-principal of Julia & James Properties LLC, which owns both properties, has been to court multiple times for various violations at both. And while most of the major violations have been addressed, the properties remain vacant and in disrepair.

Mayor Michael O’Connor and the aldermen agreed something needs to be done and the mayor said he has had conversations with staff members about it.

“We’re looking at what our options are,” he said.

Members of the metrics and hurdles subcommittee also recommended city staff members look into taking a survey to identify redundancies in the city’s land management code to help streamline permitting processes.

Checchia, a commercial real estate broker, gave an example of a recent issue that came up when a client, a condo owner, was ordered to install a water meter, which is technically not possible and should not have been part of that permitting process. A survey would help identify places where issues like that exist and prevent similar situations in the future, Checchia explained.

In the report, beautification subcommittee members listed a number of city properties that they believe could be spruced up, such as the East Street Roundabout, which members of East Frederick Rising are working on revitalizing.

According to the report, committee members also looked overall into a recently passed vacant property ordinance in the city of Brunswick and decided something similar was not right for Frederick. They discussed creating a disclosure form to let people interested in buying property in the city know all of the property regulations and codes they will have to adhere to in accordance with the city’s property and land management codes as well.

Committee member Rose Thomas, who joined Checchia at Wednesday’s workshop, said some property owners are not aware that they have to follow certain rules regarding details such as tall grass, chipping and peeling paint, and other aesthetic rules for there properties.

“Not all homeowners understand or realize there is a code they have to abide by,” she said. “And so by including that kind of information in a disclosure when they’re purchasing, it’s an educational opportunity and an informing opportunity just to try to help get that word so to help ease the code enforcement’s job.”

Follow Mallory Panuska on Twitter: @MalloryPanuska.

(19) comments

KellyAlzan

And for the record, heck NO, I would not want to live in close vicinity to a nuissance property.

My issue is that there are many nuisance properties downtown. And nothing is said and nothing is done.

Mardi35

Somehow this bad situation benefits the owners or they would do the right thing.

tatt2ed

Mardi... While the properties are vacant, the owners can continue to use them as tax write offs. I have to assume (since I do not own any commercial property) that this amount is much greater than any of the fines imposed by the city. So, in essence, this is a simple business decision.

shiftless88

I'm not sure; how do you write off what doesn't make money?

KellyAlzan

KellyAlzan

(Loss)

ma23464

The owner can depreciate the building. I am sure this modest tax deduction is much less then the property tax.

Dwasserba

I want to meet a blighted owner. Funny headline.

Lev928

The city can one of two three things ... 1. Enforce existing code. 2. Continue to fine the owners until they go into heavy debt. 3. File a court ordered lien on the property ... which can be found regardless of an existing mortgage.

KellyAlzan

Lien does nothing.

AnotherFineMess

Carmack Jays has been vacant and an attractive nuisance far longer than That Cuban Place. The black plastic over the windows is so you don’t see that it rains inside just as heavy as it does outside. Plus you can see daylight through the roof from the parking lot. The City will never consider that property for receivership because it’s owned by Douglass Development. But it continues to be a major impediment to economic growth in the area.

The Asiana was uncondemned after the big trial where the city claimed the building was in compliance (when it wasn’t).

After a citizen query regarding the state of the building and why it was uncondemned, the city quietly recondemned the building claiming the sticker just “fell off” when internal emails show the building was uncondemned. The problem there is that the latest condemnation is not entirely legal as there were no outstanding code violations that would warrant a condemnation and the Ro’s were never given the opportunity (due process) to challenge it given they were just given the all clear in court!

The City might find itself in a legal mess if they try to place the Asiana in receivership.

sevenstones1000

What does the property owner in question have over every single Mayor and Alderman, that they do her bidding year after year? Is she blackmailing every one of them? It’s beyond me how spineless the City Government is on this matter. Hypnosis? What?

Reader1954

the city isn't going to do anything about the property so why don't they shut up about it

Crusty Frederick Man 64

This problem has been going on for years and the city is still looking at what their options are. That’s so sad.

Frayou

Just more of the same ole topic, which city leaders just can’t seem to do anything about.....legally. Must be driving city leaders nuts. Going against Revitalization efforts downtown.

tonyc

one of the criteria that has to be met to allow for the receivership program is does the property "creates a substantial and unreasonable interference with the reasonable and
lawful use and enjoyment of the surrounding area" . In my personal and professional opinion, the properties recommended by the committee not only meet this criteria, they defy it!

AnotherFineMess

Hi Tony,

"creates a substantial and unreasonable interference with the reasonable and
lawful use and enjoyment of the surrounding area"

That would be a tough call as the Asiana is surrounded by successful busisnesses (mostly). I understand what you’re saying but I doubt a court would consider the continually ugly, empty, pan handler hangout a reasonable deterrent to anything.

The City lost its ability to address the property back in 2014 when despite extension after extension, all of the work (other then 1 structural repair) was never completed and some not even started when the Ro’s went into a court hearing for the status of their court ordered repairs. Plumbing, electrical, gas, sprinklers, fire alarms.. all work barely started and none even close to complete when our City Assistant Attorney said it was all done and the owners were in compliance with the NOV.


OConnor was Alderman when this happened and refused to address the mountain of evidence that the City lied about it all.

I doubt anything will happen now. Legally, the City’s hands are tied and they don’t have a dilapidated, dangerous building on record to show for it!

“Reasonable” is a vague legal term. Without a high volume of unresolved code violations and police calls to the property, not to mention many boastful statements from the previous Mayors Assistant that the building was in compliance, up to code then you have a very tough legal metric to meet for receivership.

KellyAlzan

And what if a property has a mortgage, can a city seize it? The IRS can not seize real estate that has a mortgage.

And I’m sick of hearing about the Duk Ro properties. Cited for minor piddly b.s. such as the size of a test area for removing paint.

The thing about a vacant building is challangable in court.

AnotherFineMess

I doubt that a court would allow the seizure of someone’s property just because it’s habitually vacant. The city has no shortage of vacant properties.

The Asiana? It is still condemned but with no major violations outstanding. Most anyone you talk to from the McClement administration will tell you the building is up to code (even though it isn’t). As of Oct. 2014 the building has been in “full compliance” even though none of the required work was ever completed and all of the original work permits are still open even though no work of any significance has been going on for years.

As long as the city rubber stamps the lack of adherence to violation abatement requirements then don’t expect a court to hand over the Asiana to someone else.

The Asiana is condemned because nothing ever passed final inspections and it is technically uninhabitable but no violations exist because the city declared in court (2014) that all the work was complete. With no history of serious structural or maintenance violations for the past 4 years, good luck getting that building into receivership! The McClement administration including the legal department falsified claims of full compliance with the original notices of violation when little of the required work was ever completed!

That Cuban Place (300 N Market) is not on the blight list and also has no major life/safety violations.

Don’t blame Ducky! Blame City Hall!

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