Council amends vacant property registry

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – A new city ordinance that would require owners of vacant property to register with the city got tweaked on a second reading Tuesday night.

SCHULZ

At the regular Fort Madison City Council meeting, city councilman Tom Schulz introduced an amendment to the proposed new ordinance that would have required all vacant properties in the city to be registered with the building department. A fee was also assessed to the vacant properties on a sliding scale based on square footage and the number of years it was listed on the registry.

But several property owners objected to the new law, some going as far as calling it illegal and without an appropriate appeals process.

Schulz proposed an amendment that had been worked out with city staff, including Building Director Doug Krogmeier, that would permit property owners who have insurance with the city listed on the certificate, and all utilities running in the property, to fill out an exemption.

The insurance policy has to equal the value of the property and not be less than the cost of demolition.

Councilwoman Rebecca Bowker said filling out a form for Vacant Property Registration negates exemption because they are still registering the property.

BOWKER

“Code at the end of the day is very important and how it’s worded is exactly how Doug is going to enforce it later,” she said. “So I have a problem with the titles, I would like to make sure it reflects the accuracy. That says they must submit a form titled Vacant Building Registration.

“If I have a building and it’s perfectly fine on the outside and nobody’s reporting problems with it, then why do I have to come to the city and give Doug a form saying I’m submitting a vacant registration form and ‘Oh by the way here’s proof of utilities and insurance’.”

ANDREWS

Councilman Rusty Andrews, serving as Mayor Pro Tem, asked if Bowker wanted additional adjustments to the language of the ordinance or to throw it out completely.

Bruce Grigsby, who owns several vacant properties, said he didn’t oppose the new language but took objection with the ordinance in its original form.

“I don’t oppose this because I do think it needs to be done. My exception was that as a responsible homeowner, over-insured with utilities in all buildings, I took exception to the fact I was lumped in with irresponsible people,” he said.

Grigsby said he was concerned having the city listed as a certificate holder.

Schulz said that only allows the city to be notified if insurance lapses on the property and costs homeowners nothing. Grigsby said that’s nothing he would ever do.

“I know that, but we can’t write 9,875 ordinances for each individual property owner,” Schulz said.

Andrews said he hadn’t received any phone calls on the proposed ordinance, however several residents have voiced heavy concerns about the increased regulation on property owners.

The motion was passed as amended 4-1 with Bowker voting against the measure. Councilmen Kevin Rink, Jack Gray, Schulz, and Andrews all voted in favor of the new ordinance, which will still require a 3rd reading before becoming part of the city code.

In other action, the council:
• passed a second reading of a change to the Ward Precincts per the Secretary of State’s adjusted supervisor precincts within city limits.
• accepted a submitted plat survey and waived subdivision requirements for property south of PAW Animal Shelter on 48th Street. The property will be acquired by the animal shelter for future expansion.
• heard an update on the James Block building at the corner of Avenue G and 8th Street. The building has seen additional wall settling and Krogmeier said the city will have an architect from Poepping, Stone and Bach inspect the inside of the building again to determine what the city needs to do to shore up some flooring, walls, and the roof.


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