MOUNT VERNON — More questions about vacant property registry legislation arose during a sometimes contentious committee meeting Monday at Mount Vernon City Council.
Councilman Chris Menapace rewrote several pieces of the legislation, after questions arose about the definition of vacant and the difference between commercial and residential. Menapace took out residential properties, focusing on just commercial and industrial, and also gave a clearer definition of what the city determines vacant.
The legislation, which was originally discussed in September, would require property owners to register vacant buildings with the fire department, with a fee of $400. They would also be required to file a plan of demolition, securing the structure or rehabilitation.
Councilwoman Nancy Vail said the proposal was at the behest of Zoning Enforcement Officer Greg Bemiller, who wanted better ways to handle vacant properties in the city.
After much discussion about the definitions and what it was council really wanted to do with the legislation, Area Development Foundation President Jeffry Harris proposed patience. He said ADF is just beginning to dig into countywide solutions involving nuisance and vacant properties, and that research may prove valuable in the near future.
The Knox County Land Bank is one of those resources, Harris said, but ADF is also working with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. The head of that agency recently called expressing interest in the old middle school building. Harris said the WRLC has determined the middle school building one of six in the state they defined as a property they would like to work on.
“I suggest we use all the brainpower we can. Let us help you,” Harris said. “If you let us work with you, I think we can get you a decent proposal with the resources we have available.”
In other news:
•Council welcomed the return of Mike Hillier to the board. Hillier, a former council at-large, was selected as the 4th Ward councilman, replacing Jeff Gottke, who stepped down after taking a job with the ADF.
•Two resolutions were passed by council. The first authorized the auditor to transfer funds, while the second authorized the auditor to receive supplemental appropriations.
•Council postponed the third reading on two ordinances. An ordinance amending the transient occupancy tax and one on the sale of tobacco and electronic cigarette devices to young adults in the city were both pushed back until the Nov. 26 meeting.
•A second reading was held on an ordinance vacating a portion of Ridgly Street and two alleys. A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 26, prior to the third reading.
•A first reading was held on amending the ordinance on the enforcement of downtown parking laws. The city is considering shortening the hours during the week they patrol the parking spots in the downtown business area. Councilman Mike Hillier said he would like to have more input from downtown business owners before proceeding on the changes.