09/01/04 — City refines ordinance that would eliminate neglected property

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City refines ordinance that would eliminate neglected property

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on September 1, 2004 1:58 PM

City officials are still working out the details of an ordinance that would require property owners in downtown Goldsboro to take steps to protect buildings from decay.

If the property owner doesn't comply, a fine of $100 per day could be levied by the city.

Last month the City Council held a public hearing on its proposed "demolition by neglect" amendment to the zoning ordinance, and some citizens voiced concerns about how it would be enforced.

The city's Law and Finance Committee met earlier this week to see how to best address those concerns and to streamline the process outlined in the ordinance.

City Councilman Chuck Allen said he wanted people to fix their properties, but didn't want to make the ordinance so cumbersome that people would decide to demolish the buildings instead of fixing them.

"This ordinance is to make sure that the properties don't get to that point," Allen said.

City Manager Richard Slozak said that the demolition-by-neglect ordinance would allow the city to get involved in sprucing up properties, before they needed to be demolished.

"Most of this is not going to be code violations but some degree of aesthetics," Slozak said. "It will be to key in on the early signs that the buildings are going down."

Slozak suggested that the ordinance be implemented first in the four-block Central Business District, because it would be more manageable.

Slozak said the council might want to identify the problems through a survey and then make a priority list.

Allen said that he thought an appearance standard for downtown buildings was important.

He acknowledged that the old Montgomery Ward building, which he owns, looked bad and didn't represent the downtown well. But he added that before he or other property owners began spending a lot of money to fix up the buildings the city's standards and expectations should be clear.

The ordinance also allows for petitions from any citizen noticing a problem. Slozak suggested a six-month delay on accepting petitions from the public about building defects, because the staff could be overwhelmed with complaints.

Allen said he hoped the Inspection Department would be able to identify the problems without needing complaints or petitions from citizens.

Councilman Don Chatman said that complaints or petitions should be specific. "Someone shouldn't just call up and say that a certain address on Mulberry Street is a mess," Chatman said. "The problems should be detailed in the complaint."

Allen also asked that a schedule be submitted to the council once the ordinance took effect, so it would know when the identified buildings should be fixed.

Slozak said that setting a time table would be difficult because there were variables on each building, especially the historic structures. He said a monthly report would be given to the council.

"This project needs to be somebody's priority in the Inspection Department," Allen said. "We're trying to make the unsightly look better."

Slozak said the staff would compile a list of appearance standards and report to the committee next week.