Vacancy alone isn’t
enough to require the owner of a building to register it with the Town of
Chesterton, under a new ordinance adopted by the Town Council at its meeting
As Town Attorney
Chuck Lukmann has been saying since the subject of such an ordinance was
first broached, weeks ago, the trigger is vacancy plus.
example--an ongoing, unremedied violation of the town’s unsafe building or
public nuisance ordinance.
Or plus an
unpaid property-tax installment.
Or plus an
That’s the language
of the final version of the ordinance, which now mirrors exactly--pretty
much word for word--Indiana Code, Lukmann told the council on Monday.
accordingly, will work this way:
* A commercial or
residential building in Chesterton can remain vacant until the Second Coming
without triggering the registration requirement, so long as the property
owner maintains the building and keeps its from becoming either a hazard or
a nuisance under Town Code. As long too as the owner diligently pays all
property taxes and meets all other financial obligations on it, so that the
town never has cause to slap a lien on it.
* At such time,
however, as the building is cited for being unsafe or otherwise noxious and
the particular violation goes unremedied for at least 30 days--or at such
time as a property-tax installment is missed--or a lien on the property goes
unpaid for a year--then the vacant building becomes “abandoned” and is
subject to registration.
involves the owner’s appointment of a property manager residing within 30
miles of the building and available by phone 24 hours a day.
* The owner must
also provide the town with certain information, including the contact
information of everyone with a financial interest in the building; a copy of
the most recently executed deed and most recently prepared sales disclosure
form; and the contact information of the building’s insurance carrier.
* Finally, the
owner must also file a plan for the maintenance of the building and the
remediation of the violation.
Two persons spoke
against the ordinance on Monday. George Manning focused on the “vacancy”
part of the ordinance, not on the “abandoned” part, and suggested that
buildings remain vacant for a lot of reasons, not all of them in the owner’s
Kay Gersna, on the
other hand, argued that the owner of a commercial building pays roughly
three times the taxes owed by homeowners and after ponying up for taxes and
insurance there isn’t much left for building maintenance.
In response to
Manning’s concern, Lukmann repeated, again, the key plus of the
ordinance. “It’s not enough for a building to be empty, it must also be a
drag on the neighborhood,” he noted. “Everyone understands you can’t always
get a tenant.”
In response to
Gersna’s concern, Member Nick Walding, R-3rd, suggested that “a part of the
cost of doing business is maintenance,” along with taxes and insurance.
“This is a growing
town,” observed Member Emerson DeLaney, R-5th. “We must instill some pride
back in the community.”
Member Jim Ton,
R-1st, added for his part that in discussions with folks around town the
second-most “concerning issue”--behind a proposed banquet center at Indiana
Dunes State Park--is the “degradation of the community” by poorly maintained