LDCRS mulls ordinance regarding nuisance property
A new ordinance which could potentially provide some relief in the city’s effort to legislate financially distressed and/or abandoned properties on Sanibel that have been declared a nuisance was presented to the Land Development Code Review Subcommittee for discussion and input.
On Tuesday, members of the panel were briefed on the draft ordinance being considered by City Council. The purpose of the legislation is to establish a process whereby the owner and/or mortgagee of a distressed and abandoned property will be required to register their abandoned property with the city.
According to the staff report presented to the LDCRS, during the current economic downturn, there have been a small but noticeable number of abandoned properties with homes and yards that have become eyesores and blighted nuisances. When these properties have been brought to the attention of the city, they have already fallen into a state of neglect and are no longer being maintained.
While some abandoned properties are a result of pending bankruptcy or foreclosure action, others are a result of failed speculative purchases that in some cases involve improvements and renovations work that was started but never completed.
“We don’t want to give you the impression that this is a big problem, but it is a noticeable problem,” said Jimmy Jordan, director of the city’s Planning Department.
“It is a big problem if it’s your neighborhood,” noted subcommittee member Chuck Ketteman.
To help keep property values from declining and to assist in the swift recovery of
these distressed and abandoned properties, staff proposed specific legislation
to introduce new procedures and standards specifically designed to strengthen
the city’s ability and position to help bring these nuisance properties up to
standard prior to initiating final Code Enforcement action.
Jordan presented several examples of Sanibel properties which may be affected by passage of such legislation, which showed houses in varying stages of disrepair, abandoned construction projects and windows with missing glass or boarded-up with plywood.
“Even in the absence of more specific regulations, the city has been successful, so far, in mitigating these types of nuisances though the use of Chapter 14 of the Land
Development Code, Buildings and Building Regulations, Article VI, Dangerous
Buildings and Hazardous Lands. However, the city’s enforcement efforts, as well
as the community’s stability, will benefit greatly from the implementation of this
more specific proposed legislation,” the staff report reads, in part.
All registrants will be required to designate and retain a bona fide and reliable contact person or company that will be responsible for the execution of all required security and maintenance required to abate a declared nuisance.
The filing fee for initial registration is $100 per property, the draft ordinance proposes, with a subsequent fee of $75 per year required thereafter, due within 30 days of the expiration of the initial registration.
There will also be a provision for considering an abatement plan to cure declared nuisances when additional time is warranted. However, when a declared nuisance has not been properly addressed or corrected the matter will be brought before the City Hearing Examiner.
According to Jordan, the legislation is not related to properties with overgrown grass or vacant lots not being properly maintained.
The draft ordinance also includes provisions for inspection criteria, security, maintenance, violation and enforcement procedures as well as the assessment of liens.
Following some additional discussion, LDCRS member Chris Heidrick suggested that the definition for the term “vacant” be made more clear.