Revised vacant buildings proposal going to Champaign council

CHAMPAIGN — City administrators again plan to consult the city council on a vacant buildings ordinance, which they say will help officials deal with nuisance properties in a more timely manner.

The 182 nuisance vacant residential buildings throughout the city can become hot spots for crime and lower surrounding property values, according to a city memo. But when officials tried to pass a similar ordinance in 2010, members of the business community said the proposal was too broad, and council members sent it back for more work.

City staff have revised their proposal, and plan to bring it to the city council on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.

According to a memo, officials think that stricter rules and a registration program with increasing fees targeting only problem properties can help the city deal with nuisance vacant buildings in a more timely manner.

The ordinance on the books requires that property owners secure and maintain vacant buildings — with boarded windows, for example — but it does not set any time requirements for compliance. That can lead to unresponsive property owners and long court battles before city officials can take any action to deal with the property.

The new ordinance sets conditions that would land a vacant property on a nuisance list: buildings that are unsafe for occupancy, that have been boarded up for 90 consecutive days, that have had unresolved property code violations for 45 consecutive days, that are delinquent on two property tax installments in a given year or that have been the site of repetitive criminal activity.

When one of those conditions are met, the city would require the property owner to submit a remediation plan and to register the building on a nuisance vacant property list.

That registration would carry with it a $300 fee for the first six months, $600 for the second six months and $900 for any six-month period thereafter. Failure to register a building would saddle the property owner with a $300 fine plus $50 per day until the building is properly registered, according to the draft ordinance. Unpaid fees could be held in a lien against the property.

According to a memo to city council members, administrators think the proposal will enhance accountability and encourage more timely compliance from property owners. If city officials still cannot get voluntary cooperation from owners of nuisance properties, they say they can still use the court process as a last resort.

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rsp wrote on September 24, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Is there an actual list with addresses? Some of these locations it's hard to tell if it's a real issue or a new revenue source. West of Staley between Kirby and Windsor isn't a high crime area. Have they actually taken any of the owners of vacant properties to court in Garden Hills in the last two years to try and help the neighborhood? Waiting till it's like Bristol Park?