Council Amends Vacant Property Registry > PenCityCurrent.com
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON — A new city ordinance that would require owners of vacant property to register with the city was amended at second reading Tuesday night.
At the regular Fort Madison City Council meeting, Councilman Tom Schulz introduced an amendment to the proposed new ordinance that would have required all vacant properties in the city to be registered with the building department. Fees were also imposed on vacant properties on a sliding scale based on square footage and years of listing.
But several landlords have opposed the new law, with some going so far as to call it illegal and without a proper appeals process.
Schulz proposed an amendment that had been developed with city staff, including building superintendent Doug Krogmeier, that would allow property owners who have insurance with the city listed on the certificate, and all utilities operating in the property, to complete an exemption.
The insurance policy must be equal to the value of the property and not less than the cost of the demolition.
Councilor Rebecca Bowker said completing a vacant property registration form voids the exemption as they are still registering the property.
“Code at the end of the day is very important and the way it’s written is exactly how Doug is going to apply it later,” she said. “So I have a problem with the titles, I would like to make sure it reflects accuracy. It says they have to submit a form called Vacant Building Registration.
“If I have a building and it’s perfectly fine on the outside and no one is reporting any issues then why do I have to come to town and give Doug a form saying I’m submitting a vacant registration form and ‘Oh by the way here is proof of utilities and insurance’.
Councilman Rusty Andrews, as Mayor Pro Tem, asked if Bowker wanted further tweaks to the language of the ordinance or toss it out altogether.
Bruce Grigsby, who owns several vacant properties, said he did not oppose the new language but opposed the ordinance in its original form.
“I’m not against it because I think it needs to be done. My exception was that as a responsible owner, over-insured with utilities in all buildings, I objected to being lumped together with irresponsible people,” he said.
Grigsby said he was concerned that the city was listed as a certificate holder.
Schulz said this only allows the city to be notified if insurance expires on the property and costs the owners nothing. Grigsby said it was nothing he would ever do.
“I know that, but we can’t write 9,875 prescriptions for each individual owner,” Schulz said.
Andrews said he hasn’t received any phone calls about the proposed ordinance, but several residents have expressed serious concerns about the increase in landowner regulations.
The motion passed as amended 4-1 with Bowker voting against the measure. Councilmen Kevin Rink, Jack Gray, Schulz and Andrews all voted in favor of the new ordinance, which will still require a 3rd reading before becoming part of city code.
In other actions, the council:
• Passed a second reading of a change to ward constituencies based on adjusted Secretary of State supervisory constituencies within the city limits.
• Accepted a submitted flat survey and waived subdivision requirements for the property south of PAW Animal Shelter on 48th Street. The property will be acquired by the animal sanctuary for future expansion.
• Heard an update on the James Block building at the corner of Avenue G and 8th Street. The building has seen additional walls installed and Krogmeier said the city will have an architect from Poepping, Stone and Bach inspect the interior of the building again to determine what the city needs to do to shore up some soils, walls and roof.