CENTERBURG — Village council members gave a first reading on Monday to an ordinance that creates a vacant property registry. The goal is to clean up current properties and prevent future properties from attracting rodents and criminals and becoming a repository for trash and waste.

Mayor Greg Sands said he fully supports the proposal. He noted there are nine properties that have been unoccupied or vacant between six months and 10 years.

“This puts some meat in what we can do,” he said.

The ordinance covers residential and commercial property. Owners have 90 days to register with the village after the property becomes vacant.

Owners must also submit a plan based on the ultimate resolution of the property:

•A timeline if demolition is planned

•A plan for securing and maintaining the building if it is to remain vacant along with reasons why it will be left vacant

•A rehabilitation plan if the building is to be returned to occupancy or use (plan is not to exceed 12 months)

If demolition is the option, the owner must put $10,000 in escrow for a residential structure and $75,000 for a commercial or industrial building. The village will use the money to complete demolition if the owner does not comply with deadlines.

The village will return the money once the owner completes demolition.

For residential properties, the owner will pay a $200 fee the first year the building remains vacant. The fee doubles each year up to a maximum of $3,200 for year five and thereafter.

For commercial or industrial properties, the owner will pay a fee of $400 the first year the building is vacant. Fees double each year up to a maximum of $6,400 for year five and thereafter.

The ordinance allows for some exemptions. A building under active construction or renovation that has a valid building or zoning permit does not have to register until the longest-running permit expires.

A building damaged by fire or extreme weather conditions will be exempt from registering for 90 days provided the owner submits a written request for exemption.

A building that is for sale and listed with an Ohio-licensed Realtor is exempted for 12 months. The owner must provide proof of the listing and “for sale” status.

Sands said that the Knox County Land Bank is willing to help with purchase or demolition if the village has a vacant building.

“Part of our strategic plan is to take an inventory of vacant properties,” Village Administrator Teri Wise said. “It is a good way to keep things under control.”

Village solicitor Josh Pleininger cautioned that a residential registry might be difficult to enforce in terms of property rights. However, if problems arise with residential structures, the village can pursue resolution through its property maintenance regulations.

Pleininger will also review the fees and determine if they are reasonable.

A Christian ultrarunner who likes coffee and quilting

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