The Aldermen discussed that during Wednesday's Workshop.
The Frederick Board of Aldermen were presented with a proposed ordinance to deal with blighted, neglected or abandoned properties in the city. The measure, discussed during Wednesday's City Hall Workshop, would introduce a receivership program to help reduce blight.
"There has been a lot interest in this issue, and, of course, we have some very notable blighted and vacant properties that continue to cause people a lot of grief," said Richard Griffin, Economic Development Director for the City, during a presentation to the Aldermen.
The proposed ordinance is modeled on one in affect in the city of Baltimore, which sets up a receivership program. It would go after property owners who failed to maintain their buildings so they don't become an eyesore, and lower property values in the community. If owners do not keep their buildings in good repair, the city would go the courts and ask that a receiver be appointed to manage the properties. That person or organization would either have the properties fixed up or demolished.
"This ordinance would apply to vacant structures that have been condemned under the property maintenance code, or the building code, and for which a notice or an order to rehabilitate or demolish is outstanding," said Assistant City Attorney Rachel Depo. "So we're talking about structures that are dangerous, unfit for human occupancy, and then condemned by code enforcement."
But Depo says receivership would only be used in extreme cases. She says the preferred method would be to get the owner to fix up the property, or demolish it.
Baltimore is the only city in Maryland which a receivership program to deal with blighted properties. The City of Salisbury is considering the adoption of this type of program.
The Aldermen seemed receptive to the idea, but they wanted some revisions to be made. They said they want to clarify the definition of a blighted, vacant or neglected property. "I appreciate that we took a model that already exists, and copied it. I'd like to see if there are ways where some of the definitions that the ad hoc committee actually came up in terms of what we looked at and called blight and vacant could work their way in here," said Alderman Michael O'Connor. He noted that not all condemned buildings are examples of blight. In many cases, it could be code violations that could easily be corrected.
The proposed ordinance resulted from an ad hoc committee appointed by the Mayor in 2012 to develop policies to deal with blighted or vacant properties in the city.
The Aldermen also want to know what qualifications would be needed for an individual or organization to serve as a receiver. "The appointed receiver has a very special responsibility and role, and you have to pick the right one," says Griffin.
Elected officials also asked that representatives from the City of Baltimore come to Frederick to brief the Mayor and the Aldermen on how the receivership program works. "70% of their properties actually don't go into receivership because they're brought up to code by the owners," said Alderwoman Karen Young.
"Ideally, you want compliance first. But you want people to know what the consequences of non-compliance could be, and how you articulate that, I think, is important," said Alderman O'Connor.
Griffin said he and the city staff would make revisions to the proposed ordinance before bringing it back to the Aldermen for further consideration.
"It's a good jumping off place, and we can start digging our teeth into it now," said Alderwoman Kelly Russell.