Lockport is going to be taking on derelict buildings that blight and affect residents’ quality of life with an expanded “broken window” ordinance.
The Lockport City Council will be adding an amendment to its code that will give the city the means to deal with buildings that have been deemed “nuisance properties” because they are abandoned, vacant or unoccupied, according to various guidelines set by the ordinance.
The amended ordinance, which was discussed during the Committee of the Whole portion of the City Council’s meeting Wednesday night, will be approved at the council’s Dec. 19 meeting and will go into effect Jan. 1.
“We are blessed that we don’t have the level of problems that some other communities do, but it’s a tool to address [those properties] that have been an eyesore in the community that bring down the rest of the neighboring property owners,” City Attorney Sonni Williams said during her presentation Wednesday night.
The city passed an amendment in 2016, which brought zoning code and property maintenance violations – such as not cutting grass – into its administrative adjudication process.
At that time, Alderman Darren Deskin said it was a first step toward getting a “broken window” ordinance on the books so the city could better regulate dilapidated and poorly maintained properties.
After achieving home rule status last year, the city now is expanding that ordinance to include abandoned and vacant properties.
“We now have an ordinance with some teeth,” Deskin said.
He said the city has about eight to 10 buildings that would fall into the categories set by the ordinance, including one on South Hamilton Street, between 19th Street and 20th Court, which has been abandoned for more than 30 years.
City Administrator Ben Benson said the new ordinance, which is modeled on one adopted by Freeport in 2014, also gives the city the mechanism to inspect buildings from the inside to make sure they are up to code, especially in the older downtown and historic areas of the city.
Within 60 days of the ordinance taking effect, a building official will evaluate properties within the city to determine which ones are considered nuisance properties using guidelines that include property taxes or water bills that have gone unpaid for two or more years, no legal occupants and possibly dangerous structural features.
The last known property taxpayer on file will be sent notice of the determination, which will include a date set for inspection. At that time, the owner may appeal the city’s determination of the property as a nuisance or comply with inspection.
An inspection fee will be charged, as well. Once an inspection is completed, the city or owner will outline a plan to fix violations within a set time period. Continued noncompliance could lead to penalties as well as liens and eventual demolition of the building.
“We want the owners to be responsible with them,” Benson said.