Chesterton Tribune



Council enacts abandoned building registry triggered by 'vacant plus'

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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 Monday night.

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.

Plus--for 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 unpaid lien.

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.

The ordinance, 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.

* 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 control.

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 commercial buildings.



Posted 9/16/2015




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