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Council taking steps to regulate vacant buildings

Abbeville City Council, meeting Wednesday night, took a step toward tackling concerns associated with vacant buildings.

Council passed first reading on an ordinance of the City, amending Chapter 5 of the City Code of Ordinances by creating Article III, Registration and Regulation of vacant buildings within the historic overlay district.

Vacant buildings are a major source of blight in the City's Historic Overlay District, and, when not properly maintained, become a liability to residents, visitors, and other property owners in the District.

"Neglect of vacant buildings creates a risk of fire, explosion, or flooding for the vacant building and adjacent properties," the proposed ordinance states.

The proposed ordinance helps provide a program for the identification and regulation of vacant buildings in the district. It lays out the responsibilities of the owners of vacant buildings, and provides for administration, enforcement, and penalties in conjunction with those responsibilities.

"Owners of vacant buildings within the City's Historic Overlay District will be required to register their building as vacant with the City of Abbeville Building Official by July 31st of each year," the proposed ordinance states. "An inspection fee of $50 will be due at the time of registration."

The interiors of vacant buildings, when visible to passersby through storefront windows, "shall be maintained in a way that does not exhibit evidence of vacancy," the proposal states, adding that all awnings and signs must not appear worn, tattered, or having missing areas," and broken windows must be replaced or re-glazed.

Properties undergoing active renovations would be exempt from the annual vacant building fee.

Also, a one year grace period from the vacant building fee will be given to any building purchased after Jan. 1, 2024, the proposed ordinance states.

Council members Louise Aikens, John Sutherland, and Benji Greeson were absent from the meeting.

"Currently, out of the 111 Buildings in the Downtown area, 86 are occupied and 25 are vacant," said Mike Clary, Deputy Administrative Officer with the City, Thursday.

"This comes to an occupancy rate of roughly 77%.

For reference, this is up from about 60% of the buildings being occupied back in 2016, so a good bit of progress has been made to fill buildings."

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