Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton Town Council tables abandoned building registry

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Would an ordinance establishing an abandoned building registry prove a valuable municipal resource?

Or a redundant level of unneeded bureaucracy?

The Chesterton Town Council couldn’t quite decide at its meeting Monday night and so tabled the issue, pending a few minor revisions which Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann said he wanted to make to the text of the proposed ordinance.

If enacted, the ordinance would force owner of buildings determined to be “abandoned” to register those buildings with the town. An abandoned building, for the purpose of the ordinance, is one that’s been vacant for at least 90 days, is in violation of the town’s unsafe building ordinance, has been issued a remediation order by the Building Department, and has been in non-compliance with that order for at least 30 days.

Registration would involve the owner’s appointment of a property manager residing within 30 miles of the building and available by telephone 24 hours a day. The owner would also have to provide the town with the following information: the building’s street address; the names, address, and phone numbers of every party with a financial interest in the property; a copy of the most recently executed deed and most recently prepared sales disclosure form; the contact information of the building’s insurance carrier; and the owner’s plan for maintenance and remediation.

How needful such an ordinance would be and how useful were the questions of the moment. Member Jim Ton, R-1st, originally asked Lukmann to research such an ordinance--which is authorized under Indiana Code--after complaining about the condition of two buildings in the Downtown, both of them owned by George Manning: 101 and 402 Broadway.

Ton, however, was speaking at the time of the general weediness of the property and not of the building’s actual safeness as a structure. In fact, neither 101 nor 402 Broadway has been cited under the unsafe building ordinance and there’s been no indication at all from the Building Department that one or the other would even warrant a citation.

So the applicability of a abandoned building registry, at least in these two cases, is unclear.

In any case, as Member Sharon Darnell, D-4th, noted, the town already has on the books a nuisance ordinance, under which the Building Department would have been authorized to cite Manning for tall weeds once certain conditions had been met, namely, the height of the weeds.

“I want to think about this a little more,” Darnell said of the proposed ordinance. “I don’t want to make another level of government we have to enforce.”

Member Nick Walding, R-3rd, expressed his willingness to wait. But also his willingness to immediately vote in favor of the ordinance were that the pleasure of his colleagues. “There’s nothing out of the ordinary about this ordinance,” he said. “Other town’s are doing it. There’s nothing onerous in it.”

Member Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, came down on the side of waiting. But he did make a plea to property owners to take a little more responsibility for the condition of their buildings--or of their houses, for that matter--by keeping the grass cut and weeds down and by shoveling the sidewalk and drives in the winter. “I know people fall on hard times,” he said. “Or that there are people who are older or handicapped. But there are other ways to get things done. It’s time for some people in town to step up and take care of their buildings.”

“If you want to sell your house, the first thing you’re going to do is increase its curb appeal,” DeLaney added. “Please take some pride and help your community move forward.”

Earlier in the evening, Paul Childress, the owner of the commercial building at 100 Brown Ave., voiced the concern that the town was going to end up “punishing” property owners simply because they’d had no luck selling their vacant buildings, evidently under the mistaken impression that--as written--the proposed ordinance would require any building vacant for more than 90 days to be registered.

Manning appeared to be under that impression as well. He’s been trying to sell 101 and 402 for some time now and has had multiple offers but none for what the building’s are worth. “Chesterton’s a little difficult,” Manning said, to get full value.

Lukmann tried to put the men at ease. The ordinance, he said, as it’s been proposed, only applies to buildings which have been vacant for 90 days and found to be in violation of the unsafe building ordinance and have been issued a remediation order to that effect and are still in violation more than 30 days after that order’s issuance.


Posted 8/12/2015




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