The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

May 23, 2013

City creates demolition list

By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer

CLINTON — City officials are looking at different properties that need to be demolished throughout the city and soon will consider a new ordinance they hope will deter the need for future nuisance building demolition.

The city demolished a dozen buildings in the past couple of months using a little more than $60,000. Building and Neighborhood Services Official Mike Harmon is working on a list of a number of other buildings that need to be torn down for various reasons in the next fiscal year.  

Once he has a final list, Harmon will forward it to the City Council and the Historic Preservation Commission for approval. The city has around $100,000 budgeted for nuisance building demolition, meaning it can’t afford to demolish all the nuisance buildings that exist in one round.

“There’s too many houses to be on one list,” Harmon told members of the City Services Committee on Wednesday. “Of course there are new houses all the time that come up vacant that we have to look at...we’ll have 10, easy.”

Harmon also is working on a policy that would require building owners to register their buildings with the city when they become vacant.

“The purpose of that is then we know where the vacant buildings are,” Harmon said. “This whole concept of ‘people just leave something and wait for me to find it,’ I’m not going to find them all.”  

If the building owner had to register the property as vacant, it would give the city a name, address, phone number and other information so that if the city needed to inspect the property or found some issue with it, officials would be able to contact whomever owns the property more easily than they currently can.

Under the proposed ordinance, the building’s owner would be held responsible for maintaining it. Harmon believes there are some owners and banks that purposely do not put the property in their name in order to dodge responsibility.  

“It’s certainly not something we’re going to use to abuse or harass people. It’s something that when a house is vacant, things go bad. That’s either when vagrants come in or dilapidation happens due to neglect,” Harmon said. “This would simply be a way to keep people responsible for their property and hopefully have less demolitions.”

Members of the committee agreed the policy would be good for the city in order to decrease the number of nuisance buildings that will need to be dealt with because of safety concerns caused by neglect and dilapidation.  

Harmon will work with the city attorney on the first draft of the policy and come back to the committee with the draft.