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.