Frederick City Adopts New Receivership Ordinance

It gives officials additional authority to put blighted properties in receivership.

Frederick, Md (KM)  In a 4-1 vote  Thursday evening, the Frederick Board of Aldermen adopted a new receivership ordinance to deal with blighted properties.

The measure was sponsored by Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak. “The idea here is to expand our receivership ordinance by expanding our  definition of blighted property,” she said.

The new definition of blighted property is a building that’s unoccupied or condemned under the city’s Property Management Code or Building code; or the owner has an outstanding court order to correct a violation the city code.

Under the new law, the city can  petition the courts to place any blighted property in receivership. The former ordinance gave officials the authority to ask for receivership if the blighted structure had an outstanding notice of violation, or a court order which requires the property owner to take care of one or more violations of the Property Management Code or the Building Code.

Alderman Phil Dacey voted against it, saying it means  that a resident with one violation and doesn’t have the money to correct it could have their property taken from them. He cited an example of a property owner whose porch is leaking. “They get a notice of violation. They don’t have the money to repair their porch. The city could take them to court. I’m not saying that this administration would. But in the future, there may an administration that would take them to court for any reason and say ‘we want to own that property,'” he said.

But Alderman Michael O’Connor said he believes the city staff will be cautious in its use of these powers. “I have confidence that the discretion that has been suggested as necessary is discretion that will be exercised,” he said.

Alderwoman Kelly Russell voted for the ordinance, but with some reservations. “We have to be very cautious in the way this is implemented,” she said. “It really will, the way that it’s written, open up a whole plethora of opportunities.”

“Absolutely, we have to cautious how we apply this,” says Alderwoman Kuzemchak. “We also, I think,  need to expand our abilities. We have to expand the possibilities.”

If the city wants to put a blighted property in receivership, it must petition the circuit to appoint an individual or individuals who will take over the property, promising to sell, rehabilitate or demolish the structure. Supporters of the law say the city will need to convince a judge to name a receiver who will take over the property.

By Kevin McManus