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Feb 02

The Vacant Buildings Ordinance

Comments (0) 12:00 AM posted by admin |

This stuff just writes itself.

On Tuesday, the City passed the first reading of an amendment to Chapter 18 of the Ypsilanti City code entitled “Buildings and Building Regulations,” Article VI “Inspection and Control of Certain Buildings.” In a rather stunning turn of events, it is now available on the City’s web site.

Mayor Farmer and Council Member Nickels [email address unavailable] assured those in attendance that there is a silent majority of Ypsilantians that routinely stop them on the street and in supermarkets pledging their support for this measure. But rather than show their support at the Council meeting, this silent majority must have stayed home to watch “American Idol” or “Antiques Roadshow” instead.

Members of City Council are going to see in this amendment what they want to see. Members of Council will say that those opposed to this measure object to inspection and escrow fees that could be incurred if this ordinance were to be enforced. To take that position is to misunderstand the issues at hand. The reason this ordinance revision is a bad idea is that it micromanages insignificant details in the lives of citizens and adds tremendous discretionary powers to a department that doesn’t have the resources to enforce ordinances already on the books.

What is the fundamental difference between a properly maintained residence and a properly maintained piece of property that is unoccupied? Cities like Fresno, Seattle, Chicago, and Kansas City have ordinances on the books that say as long as landscaping is kept up, the building’s exterior has proper weather protection, the grounds are secured against trespassers, roofs are weather-tight, and trash is routinely collected, then there is no difference. Ypsilanti is looking to redefine dangerous in terms of time. A building that is vacant for 11 months and 30 days does not require an inspection, but the same building requires periodic inspections once it has been vacant for 12 months and 1 day. It is this definition that will be the ultimate downfall of this ordinance should it be challenged in the courts.

City Council voted 5 – 1 to pass the first reading. Only Ward 1 Council Member Swanson [email address unavailable] voted against the measure. It should be noted that Ward 1 Council Member Richardson voted against this measure when it was first brought before council two years ago. So as it stands now, two members of City Council need to change their votes in order for this to be defeated. Since these members are elected to serve us, it is imperative we make them understand our position as we are competing against the imaginary support of the community the Mayor claims she has on this issue. In order to sway two members of council, it will be necessary that a large number of people come to the March 1st meeting to speak during audience participation against this amendment.

The most frustrating thing about this is there are already ordinances (that are not currently enforced) designed to protect the community from dangerous buildings. It’s sad to see a group of people overwhelmed like this.

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