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List would codify city's efforts
The city is looking at an ordinance that would require owners to register vacant property in the municipality's corporate limits.

The ordinance would be part of the city commission's ongoing effort to clean up properties that have fallen into disrepair.

Dick Newbern, property maintenance and demolition coordinator for the city, presented an ordinance to the commission during its meeting Wednesday that would require owners of vacant properties to register on a list maintained by the city or face a $1,000 fine.

Owners would be responsible for an annual registration fee of $100 and would be required to notify the city if the property changes ownership.

City officials have renewed their efforts to address derelict properties and homeowners that violate property ordinances since last fall. More than 10 derelict properties have been razed and 190 more are in the city's crosshairs.

An additional code officer has been hired to help enforce property ordinances.

Newbern said having a vacant property list would allow code enforcement officers to more easily track down property owners.

"It's more difficult than meets the eye immediately," Newbern said, adding that some properties become vacant because of a death of the property owner, foreclosures or abandonment.

"Once the owners are identified, then the city can advise the property owner of their code responsibilities," Newbern said.

It's an idea that makes sense, said Mayor Bryan Thompson. Vacant properties can attract crime, squatters and become an eyesore.

"This makes perfect sense to me, to be able to get these on a registry so we know who owns them," Thompson said.

Discussion of the ordinance follows the passage of a state law that makes registries more available to local governments. The Glynn County Commission took immediate advantage of the legislation, adopting an ordinance in December, Newbern said.

However, Newbern added, the county's problem differs from the city's.

"The county's vacant property problem is mainly one of foreclosure," Newbern said.

More than 1,000 vacant properties are registered in the county, Newbern said. He's unsure how many are in the city.

While upwards of 190 properties are waiting for demolition in the city, many more vacant properties exist that are not considered to be derelict and in need of demolition.

Knowing how many properties are vacant would give code enforcement officers the tools necessary to enforce codes already on the books in the city.

"It allows the city an avenue for defining what good maintenance is," Newbern said. "The ordinance can actually define what the thickness of plywood needs to be to go on the windows and that sort of thing."

Commissioner Johnny Cason isn't convinced the registry and the fines for failing to register are necessary.

"Very frankly, we've probably got what we need to get people to do things and we need to enforce what we've got," Cason said.

The state defines a vacant property as one that has been empty for 60 days.

Newbern told the commission at its meeting Wednesday that the city could create another definition if necessary.

City officials will research the registry ordinances of other municipalities and take up the issue again at a future meeting.

* Reporter Nikki Wiley writes about government, business and other local topics. Contact her at nwiley@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320.



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