Jacksonville Council Passes Bill Requiring Demolition of Blighted Homes Lacking Utilities
On January 27, the Florida Times-Union released an article discussing the passing of Ordinance 2014-427.
Jacksonville Council passes bill requiring demolition of blighted homes lacking utilities
Legislation requiring many vacant buildings to be demolished if they’ve been boarded up with no power or water for two years passed Jacksonville’s City Council Tuesday.
A building boarded up that long “contributes to blight conditions,” says the legislation, finalized after months of fine-tuning by members of a council panel on neighborhood blight.
The bill’s final version reflects an effort to balance concerns of two vocal and adamant camps: people who wanted neglected old buildings removed so they wouldn’t become hangouts for drug dealers and vagrants, and people concerned about leveling remnants of the city’s history.
Finding that balance had seemed doubtful when the idea was first hatched.
“When the bill came out of the blight committee, I was very much opposed to it,” said Councilwoman Lori Boyer, who became a co-sponsor after it was rewritten. “I wanted to sign on as a co-sponsor in the end because I felt like we had done a good job with the bill. We had come up with something that met the needs.”
The final version says a building is unsafe, and subject to demolition, when it has been boarded up, has accumulated unpaid code-enforcement fines or demolition liens, and is also without utilities.
Mayor Alvin Brown supports the legislation, said David DeCamp, a city spokesman.
The bill spelled out a demolition requirement only for buildings that are “non-historic,” meaning mostly that they aren’t part of a city-designated historic district or a designated landmark. Historic buildings boarded up longer than six months are supposed to have city approval for a type of extended storage dubbed “mothballing.”
It’s not clear how many homes the legislation affects, said Councilman Warren Jones, who shepherded the bill through extended hearings.
JEA records suggest about 9,000 properties have had utilities disconnected for at two years or more, he said. But only a fraction of those are boarded up, and Jones said that number has never been clear.
Regardless of their numbers, backers of the bill said those homes cause disproportionate harm. In November, Habitat for Humanity’s Jacksonville affiliate told the blight committee about 20 homes in the New Town neighborhood west of downtown that the organization’s leaders said undermined work that had been done for years to improve that part of town.
The nonprofit, which has built or renovated many homes in New Town, was worried enough about abandoned buildings that it offered to pay to demolish some, and asked the council to pass legislation tackling the problem.
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