Vacant Buildings

Owners of commercial buildings in the city that stay vacant for more than a year will have to register the properties and could face fees and increased taxes the longer the buildings remain unoccupied under an ordinance passed unanimously Thursday night by the city’s aldermen. These properties are located on the east side of the 300 block of North Market Street.

Kara Clark knows the effect vacant buildings can have on a business.

Clark is the owner of Bailey’s Treasures in the 400 block of North Market Street. She said long-term vacant buildings in blocks leading up to her own can keep shoppers from wandering up from the businesses around Frederick’s Square Corner.

“It stops the foot traffic a lot,” Clark said. When people start to see vacant storefronts, they don’t think that the other shops are there, she said.

Owners of commercial buildings in the city that stay vacant for more than a year will now have to register the properties and could face fees and increased taxes the longer the buildings remain unoccupied under an ordinance passed unanimously Thursday night by the city’s aldermen.

The ordinance defines a vacant property as a commercial or mixed-use building that has been completely vacant for more than a year, or one in the city’s downtown or mixed use-zones where half of the first-floor area that’s visible from the street is vacant for more than a year.

The city will determine whether a building is vacant by city water bill records, and vacant buildings will be required to register online each year after one year of vacancy.

The city’s finance department will monitor properties that have $0 water bills, said Marc DeOcampo, the city’s chief administrative officer.

The second year that a building is vacant will require a registration with no fee, the third year will include a fee and an inspection, and the fourth and subsequent years will require a registration, fee and special taxation.

While the move drew praise from businesses, people need to have realistic expectations, and nothing will change overnight, Alderwoman Kelly Russell said.

Buildings that are vacant for more than two years will be inspected each year with a code that will be developed by the city’s director of public works.

The city will have to hire up to three additional inspectors before the end of the third year to perform the inspections that are needed, DeOcampo said.

Peter Brehm, who lives in the city’s Neighborhood Advisory Council 9, told the aldermen he supports the ordinance, but he wishes it was more aggressive with its timelines and fees.

Still, he said, it’s a good start.

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at rmarshall@newspost.com.

(13) comments

KellyAlzan

Ok, here’s then loophole.

Connect a lawn sprinkler timer to a faucet and program it to run for no less than 20 minutes every 18 hrs. Simply connect the timer to the cold water washer machine spigot. And run the hose into the washer machine drain pipe.

KellyAlzan

https://www.lowes.com/pd/Orbit-1-Output-Port-Digital-Hose-End-Timer/50329571

sevenstones1000

Has Duckie Ro stopped laughing yet?

Frayou

Sounds like typical case of government overreach. How do you keep a vacant commercial property open if there isn’t a need? Owners aren’t going to open a business unless there is a need which is profitable. Sounds a little unreasonable.

Reader1954

is the Ro property still empty

Dwasserba

Yes.

C.D.Reid

If memory serves me correctly, I believe the former Scotty's Toy Store used to be located in one of the buildings in the picture. That was a kids heaven back in the 50s / early 60s. I wonder how many today remember it?

to sense

I remember Scottys , which was on the corner of 3rd street and Market, the building shown in the picture of this article. I recall it to have been a candy store. My parents would take me there after church. And yes it was a childs heaven.

C.D.Reid

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] to a fellow, senior native.

C.D.Reid

By the way then, to sense, do you remember Spaulding's Barbara Shop, just about across Market Street from The Professional Building? That was where my mom took us for cuttin' back then. It was a three seater and I remember when they hired the lady barber.

Jaco

Two thoughts: 1) Terrible time to make such a change since we’re in a pandemic, businesses are going broke and closing, and more storefronts are now vacant (at least downtown); and 2) anyone that owns a vacant property just needs to stop by once a month and turn on a faucet for 30-60 minutes. So wasting water is now encouraged by the City.

KellyAlzan

https://www.lowes.com/pd/Orbit-1-Output-Port-Digital-Hose-End-Timer/50329571

Connect to cold water laundry spigot and drain into the laundry drain line

KellyAlzan

Doesn’t sound good. Needs better strategy

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