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Zephyrhills creating demolition ordinance for blighted sites

ZEPHYRHILLS — With the city facing a growing number of abandoned and derelict properties, officials have been working in recent months to alleviate the blight — and what in some cases have become unsanitary or otherwise hazardous conditions.

The city has demolished five such properties in recent months, following a procedure outlined by International Building Code. But with more demolitions on the horizon, city officials wanted to give both the city and property owners more protection with an updated city code.

On Monday night, the City Council unanimously approved on first reading an ordinance that more clearly addresses demolition procedure and gives property owners and lien holders an appeals process. The measure comes back for a final vote March 12.

"We've done more of these in the past six months than we've done probably in the last six years," City Manager Jim Drumm told council members. With more demolitions coming, he added, officials will likely see challenges from some interested parties.

City Attorney Joe Poblick drew up an ordinance that closely resembles the one Pasco County has in place.

"It establishes an exact procedure," he said.

City building official Bill Burgess said the city is reviewing several more properties, but is currently in the process of targeting three more for demolition.

"We're looking all the time," he said during the meeting.

Demolition, the ordinance notes, is used only as an "extreme remedy" after a licensed building inspector has determined that the property is either dangerous or considered visual blight and the property value would be increased if the dilapidated building is condemned and removed.

The ordinance also requires that a notice to demolish is clearly posted on the property and all lien holders and owners are notified. Following that, it must be vacated and demolished and the site cleared within 60 days, or the city will do it at the owners' expense.

Interested parties have 30 days from the notice to appeal.

"I'm glad we're doing this," council member Lance Smith said before making the motion to approve the ordinance on first reading.

>>in other business

The Zephyrhills City Council:

• Waived annexation fees: The council gave unanimous approval to the first reading of an ordinance that would waive annexation-related fees, to encourage cleaning up the city's "Swiss cheese" borders, widen its limits, add to the population and increase tax revenue. Annexation has been a priority of City Manager Jim Drumm, who said he has seen other communities successfully waive such costs. The fees usually range from $500 to $1,000. Drumm said city officials hadn't budgeted to receive any such fees because they didn't expect an influx of annexations. If the measure passes next month on second reading, the fees would be waived for 18 months. Council members would then review the effectiveness of the measure and decide whether to extend it.

• Purchased iPads: Council members voted to purchase iPads through the city for council business. About $550 will be deducted over time from council members' paychecks so they can keep their iPad whenever they leave office.

Zephyrhills creating demolition ordinance for blighted sites 02/28/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 8:19pm]
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