City leaders in Frankfort are getting tough on property owners who fail to fix up unsafe buildings. The city created a Hearing Authority to work with the building commissioner to bring properties into compliance. You can view Mayor McBarnes' next 200 day plan by clicking here.
Frankfort, Ind. — Following the Board of Public Works’ establishment of a new Hearing Authority today, negligent property owners will receive orders to comply from the City’s Building Inspector to remedy their unsafe buildings within a specific timeframe or be compelled to appear before the new Hearing Authority to face consequences.
Established under Indiana’s Unsafe Building statute (IC 36-7-9) which was adopted into local law by the Frankfort City Council in the early 1980s, the Board of Works’ creation of the Hearing Authority is in response to the need to significantly improve Frankfort’s housing issues.
In the near future, Building Inspector Sam Payne will send out orders to comply to property owners who have buildings, other various structures and property deemed to be unsafe to the neighborhood and/or to occupants living within those buildings. Property owners will have ten days from the date of the order to contact Payne to provide a specific plan and timeframe for fixing the buildings’ conditions.
Property owners who do not respond to Payne within the ten-day timeframe will be issued a notice of demolition hearing, compelling these unresponsive property owners to appear before the Hearing Authority whose meetings will be open to the public. Property owners who fail to appear or who are unwilling to bring their buildings up to safety standards potentially will face fines and/or be issued notices of demolition.
According to Mayor McBarnes, it is not officials’ intent to demolish buildings. The goal is to gain compliance and educate property owners that there are consequences to neglecting buildings for which they are responsible, with fines and demolition being possible outcomes.
“Our new process and the creation of the Hearing Authority are about accountability. People decide to locate to a community for two primary reasons: education and housing. We are serious about combating housing issues in our community, while being very transparent about the process.
“We want to work with these property owners in a fair and responsible manner. The decision whether they receive notices to appear before the Hearing Authority and face fines or demolition orders rest with their own choices to cooperate or not.
“If they are found to have unsafe structures and show good faith in working with our Building Services team to correct their building conditions, our staff absolutely will work with them. A main reason for establishing the Hearing Authority is to provide a process to gain compliance with those property owners who have been unresponsive or uncooperative in the past.
“The new Hearing Authority within our Neighborhood Revitalization cornerstone is a major focus of our new 200-Day Plan. To demonstrate our commitment to the initiative, it is our first announcement as we launch our new Plan today,” McBarnes said.
Building Inspector Sam Payne is putting together the procedures for handling unsafe building situations. To date, much of the time and effort of his staff has been spent working to get responses and resolutions from property owners. With the creation of the Hearing Authority, a mechanism – backed by a State statute – will be in place to encourage compliance with clear consequences outlined for non-compliance.
“Property ownership is a privilege as well as a right in our society. Maintaining a safe and secure property is part of the responsibilities of building ownership. We will be following State statute very closely to ensure our expectations for property owners match Indiana code.
“Payment received for fines issued will go into the City’s Unsafe Building Fund, with fines of up to $5,000 possible for willful failure to comply. The Unsafe Building Fund was established last year by the City Council with monies in the Fund used to demolish unsafe structures in the City,” Payne explained.
Members of the Hearing Authority will be the City’s three Board of Public Works members, McBarnes, Tom Ransom, Ken Estes and up to two mayoral appointments.
If an unsafe structure is in a historic district within the City, additional groups will be involved in resolving the situation.
Within IC 36-7-9, a building or structure or any part of a building or structure is deemed unsafe if it is any one of the following: an impaired structural condition that makes it unsafe to a person or property; a fire hazard; a hazard to public health; a public nuisance; dangerous to a person or property because of a violation of a statute or ordinance concerning the building condition or maintenance; or is vacant and not maintained in a manner that would allow human habitation, occupancy or use under the requirements of a statute or ordinance.
Within the statute, both unsafe buildings and tracts of real property on which the unsafe buildings are located are considered unsafe premises.
Source: City of Frankfort