The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

December 14, 2012

City officials track empty buildings

DANVILLE — It’s that time again for another year of vacant structure registrations and rental unit registrations in the city.

Exactly 191 letters went out about a week ago from the city to owners of vacant structure for the 2013 registration program. The owners now have 30 days, until mid-January, to register their buildings with the city.

Letters to about 800 property owners for rental properties will go out in mid-January. They also will have 30 days to register.

Danville Public Development Director John Heckler said the city in previous years has sent out more than 200 letters to owners of vacant structure.

“Some (buildings) have been demolished, while a few have been fixed …,” he said.

Next year will be the sixth year for the rental registration program. It will be the fifth year for the vacant structure registration.

“It’s run smooth,” Heckler said overall about the programs.

The city, however, still has problems with returned letters. Some owners of vacant, neglected buildings cannot be found.

“It’s more of a challenge,” Heckler said about the vacant structure registration program. “It’s a little slower.”

Heckler said the programs also have been very beneficial in providing information to the city. He said the rental registration program has allowed the city to identify where rental units are, identify owners and managers and have contact information as needed.

“That’s worked very well … and people have been pretty cooperative,” Heckler said of the rental registration program.

If something happens with a rental unit, the city now knows who to call, he said.

“We’ve had good results …,” he said.

Under the rental registration program, the annual registration fee is $15 per unit, with no cap.

In 2011, the city mailed letters to property owners of 2,691 properties and 5,618 units.

City officials also had mailed about 300 letters to potential rental property owners, where the property changed owners or there were other changed circumstances.

Under the vacant structure registration, the annual fee is $50 per residential building and $100 per non-residential building. Owners also must provide a plan for the building. There also is a $500 annual fee if the building has been vacant for more than one year and significant repairs are not currently being carried out.

Violating the ordinance can result in fines of $250 to $2,500.

Vacant building plans also must be approved by the Public Development Department Director or his designee.

The plan shall contain a statement as to which of the following three options the owner has chosen for the property — the building is to be demolished and the date is listed for completion; the building is to remain vacant (with the owner citing a reason) and must be secured and property maintained; or the building is to be rehabilitated by a certain date.

Exemptions include a building that is actively marketed for sale or rent for a 12-month period.

The city started the annual vacant building registration program to encourage vacant building owners to keep the buildings properly maintained and pursue occupying them. The city doesn’t want another 100 dilapidated buildings to tear down at taxpayer expense, but demolitions aren’t slowing down.

The ordinance aims to encourage owners of vacant buildings to keep them properly maintained and pursue their becoming occupied.

A vacant building is defined as a building unoccupied and unsecured, secured by other than normal means, unsafe, illegally occupied or which an enforcement officer has issued an order to correct code violations.

The ordinance also requires broken windows and doors to be covered with plywood colored like the building and cut to fit the openings.

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