Vacant building ordinance making a difference

By Scott Halasz shalasz@civitasmedia.com

August 16, 2014

XENIA — Six months into its vacant building ordinance, Xenia has seen some positive results, but it is still battling with some owners who are not following through.

That was the message City Council received Thursday during an update presented by City Planner Brian Forschner.

The ordinance was approved in February and since then, 30 buildings have been identified as potential trouble spots. Seventeen have received notices of violation for failing to complete registration and/or pay the required fee. The initial fee is $400 but it goes up to $6,400 in subsequent years.

“Progress is slow but steady,” said City Planner Brian Forschner. “There are a lot who have not responded. Some of these owners do not live in the area or are difficult to track down.”

Most had a deadline this week to avoid legal action.

“Next week, in some cases, we will potentially be looking at some court charges,” Forschner said. “We’ll take the appropriate legal action.”

A couple buildings are exempt from registration due to active building permits, while 13 others have at least attempted registration. Thirteen of the vacant buildings are being actively marketed.

“Six months is a little early to expect significant, tangible results,” Forschner said.

He did say several building owners have begun the clean-up and painting process.

“It’s forcing some conversations with owners,” he said. “It’s getting people’s attention. They’re starting to market their properties more. I’m definitely seeing positive momentum.”

One unexpected road block with regard to the fees arose when the city was told by County Auditor David Graham that he could not assess the registration fees to the owners’ property taxes. That slowed down the process, Forschner said.

“We’re back on track (now),” he said.

City Manager Brent Merriman said he is pleased with how the ordinance is working out.

“You’re talking a pretty new policy, not just for the city but for the region,” he said. “I think we’re right on course. It’s having an impactful difference, no doubt.”

Scott Halasz covers Xenia and Greene County for the Xenia Daily Gazette. He can be reached at 937-502-4507.