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Posted: March 8, 2011 7:16 p.m.

Porterdale mulls tighter rules on empty buildings

The Porterdale City Council on Monday held first and second readings of an amendment to construction and housing codes that would require owners to register any unoccupied buildings with the city.

A building will be considered vacant property if it is unoccupied for 90 days or longer. A city-designated housing official will then inspect the house to ensure that it is properly maintained and reasonably sealed against entry by people, animals and the elements. The owner would be required to register the building within 10 days of inspection.

A permit would last for six months and would then need to be renewed, which would include another inspection.

There's a $100 fine for failure to register a building.

The amendment also includes rules for boarding up unoccupied property if other means are not used to secure the building.

The amendment calls for a registration fee, which can be set by the city manager.
Councilman Mike Harper opposed the amendment, contending that it was unfair to landlords who were waiting to lease properties to quality renters.

"In this economy it's not fair to punish the landlords," Harper said. "I think we need to look (at this ordinance) and do some re-writing."

Harper promised he would work with city attorney Tim Chambers to find ways to fix the amendment.

"I'm going to put together a list of stuff that I want for myself - as a city councilman and not a landlord - and I don't care if it takes an hour or 15 hours, I'm going to ask for it," Harper said.

Harper did not vote to approve the reading of the amendment. The other members of the council voted yes to approve the reading.

"I think we need to raise the standard," Councilwoman Marline Chapman said. "And probably a beginning of raising the standard begins with the landlords. I'm sure that (many landlords) are holding off. You want to get the right people, but riding around the city you know that is not the case in most situations."

The amendment is designed to reduce the risk of unoccupied properties from being fire hazards, to prevent the buildings from being used as drug houses and to help prevent blight.

The text for the amendment was based on similar ordinances used in Albany, Ga.

The amendment will be discussed at a council work session on March 24. The final reading is scheduled for the April 4 council meeting.

In other city of Porterdale news:
• The council approved changes to the building construction codes to make them conform with state standard codes. The changes also outline new guidelines for certified building inspectors.
• Anita Rainey was appointed to a vacant position on the Porterdale Downtown Development Authority. The council also discussed paying $950 to pay for the DDA members to be insured for one year. The DDA has promised to reimburse the city for the expense at a later time.

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