In an effort to improve the safety and aesthetics of the city, the St. Clair Building Department wants to put a vacant properties program in place — and have it enforced.
The matter was introduced to the city’s planning and zoning board last month, and members decided to take some time and review the proposed policies before making any recommendations to the board of aldermen.
Building Inspector Jeremy Crowe said St. Clair currently doesn’t have any regularly enforced rules or regulations in the books regarding vacant buildings, so many of them sit empty, deteriorate and potentially become a nuisance and/or hazard. He and his office assistant, Diana Mabry, put together the program that includes rules and regulations, a vacant property registration form, a demolition notification application, and an environmental regulations for demolition project checklist from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
“There are a lot of things here,” planning board Chairman Myrna Turner said about the materials. “I think what we need to do is take all this home and look at it.”
There was some discussion during the meeting about which vacant properties would be targeted under the program.
Mayor Ron Blum, who attended the meeting and sat in as a board member in order to make a quorum, said he thought the focus should be derelict buildings. He said if someone builds a complex that has several potential offices or businesses and not all of them are used, the empty spaces should not be included in the program.
“We can put in an exemption for new structures,” Crowe said.
However, Mabry argued that not enforcing the program in full could lead to potential trouble.
“The problem is you could have a vacant property in good standing but the property next to it is not as good,” she said. “How do you make one pay and one not?”
Penalties for being in violation that could be considered by the planning board include a $500 fine and an additional sum of $100 per day for being in noncompliance.
“There will be a list of things that need to be done,” Mabry said. “The property will have to be registered and inspected.”
Vacant properties will have to be registered with the city annually.
Discussion also centered on the difference between a vacant property and a derelict one.
“Those are different things,” Mabry said.
Planner John McGlenn asked if the purpose of the program is to make sure all city properties are maintained, whether they are occupied or not.
“Yes,” Mabry said.
“And we want to get the properties useable and occupied again,” Crowe said.
“We want somebody to be accountable for these properties,” Mabry said.
As it currently is proposed, the vacant properties ordinance includes requirements, a registration procedure that also outlines the penalties for failure to do so, inspection requirements, maintenance requirements, boarding standards, liabilities, plan of action guidelines for repairable structures, a demolition plan and what happens when the property becomes occupied or sold.
Currently, the city’s code or ordinances includes a section on abatement of dangerous buildings.
Article IV, Section 6-61, defines a dangerous building and lists 10 criteria.
The next section discusses standards for repair, vacation or demolition.
“If the dangerous building can reasonably be repaired so that it will no longer exist in violation of the terms of this article, it shall be ordered repaired.
“If the dangerous building is in such condition as to make it dangerous to the health, morals, safety or general welfare of its occupants, it shall be ordered to be vacated.
“In any case where a dangerous building is 50 percent damaged or decayed, or deteriorated from its original value or structure, it shall be demolished, and in all cases where a building cannot be repaired so that it will no longer exist in violation of the terms of this article, it shall be demolished.
“In all cases where a dangerous building is a fire hazard existing or erected in violation of the terms of this article or any ordinance of the city or statute of the State of Missouri, it shall be demolished.”
“There is no way we’re going to come to a decision tonight,” Turner said. “You have a homework assignment. Go over it all and come back ready to discuss it.”
The planners’ next meeting is scheduled for May 12.