In recent years, property speculators from out of state or urban areas have purchased old, run-down buildings in the city of Seymour.
Then they let them sit.
And fall apart.
And become eyesores.
“It’s a huge problem,” South Ward Alderman Dan Wehmer, serving as the city’s mayor pro tem in the absence of Mayor Richard Vinson, said at last Thursday’s regular meeting of the Seymour Board of Aldermen.
A year ago, Wehmer proposed an ordinance that required property owners to register abandoned or vacant properties, charging a $250 annual registration fee with monthly inspection costs.
Chris Swatosh, then the city’s attorney, advised against the aldermen approving Wehmer’s plan.
“I think you’re asking for lawsuits,” Swatosh said then.
Fast forward a year, a new ordinance to deal with abandoned and vacant property is before the aldermen.
This time coordinated by City Administrator Hillary Gintz, the new Chapter 525 regulations follow Wehmer’s suggestion of requiring that the properties be registered; however, there is no cost for doing so.
Registration under the proposed ordinance, 525.040, reads that “any beneficiary/trustee who hold a deed of trust” on an abandoned property within the city limits “shall cause an inspection to be performed on the property ... within 14 days.”
If the property is found to be vacant or shows evidence of vacancy, it shall be deemed abandoned, and the owner shall, “within 10 days of the inspection, register the property with the (city’s) building official.”
The eight-page proposed ordinance requires that abandoned properties be subject to annual registration.
For vacant properties, the rules are much the same.
Annual registration is required.
Maintenance also is mandated for both abandoned and vacant properties.
In Section 525.080 of the ordinance, it reads, “The city building inspector shall have the authority and the duty to inspect properties ... for compliance and to issue citations for the violations.”
Although there is no cost to register an abandoned or vacant property, there is a fine for not doing so under the aforementioned rules.
That fine is a minimum of $250.
Failure to report changes to registration information also is subject to a minimum fine of $250.
Failure to maintain annual registration also is punishable by a minimum fine of $250.
“It’s high time we put something in place that deals with this issue,” Wehmer said.
“There’s no excuse for these dangerous and dilapidated buildings to be dotting our city, growing in number every single year just because the owners are too lazy to fix the problem. If you can’t afford to fix or tear down a building that’s beyond repair, sell it. If nothing else, this ordinance puts these owners on notice — register your property and be subject to city inspections. That gets the ball rolling on addressing this issue.”
The other aldermen cited no objections to the proposed ordinance.
“I like it,” North Ward Alderman Darrel “Bub” Wallace said. “These abandoned and vacant properties are an issue here, a big problem. If this gives the city some authority to start addressing it, then I’m all for it.”
The aldermen voted 4-0 to have the ordinance on the agenda for the next city meeting set for Thursday, June 24.
If approved at that meeting, the new ordinance becomes city law.
Upon request, a copy of the proposed ordinance is available at Seymour City Hall.