The Pine Bluff City Council will discuss a vacant building registration ordinance proposed by Alderman Bruce Lockett at its Monday, April 17, meeting. The council meets at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council chambers at City Hall.
Also under consideration is a proposal to temporarily block off a stretch of Lee Street in West Pine Bluff to combat illegal dumping, and a proposal to block off a portion of Pryce Road between Dollarway Road and Womack Street. The council will consider renaming a street near the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff after late Golden Lion great L.C. Greenwood, as well as proposals by the Pine Bluff Police Department to sell confiscated arcade games and stripped patrol vehicles.
The vacant building registration ordinance would require owners of vacant residential and commercial buildings to register with the city. Vacant buildings are defined in the ordinance as a building or commercial space larger than 10,000 square feet that has been unoccupied for more than three months. Owners would be required to register the vacant building with the city within 30 days of it becoming vacant. The owner would be responsible for keeping the building secure, clean and with working utilities.
Buildings registered as vacant would be subject to city inspections. There would be a fee for registering a property as vacant, and the fee would have to be paid annually until the property is no longer vacant. Owners of vacant properties who live outside of Jefferson County must have a licensed property manager who either lives or has an office in the county. Or they can designate as property manager a family member or another person living in Jefferson County who does not manage other real estate for a fee. Lockett said he modeled the legislation on vacant building registration ordinances passed in other states, including one in Dover, Delaware.
“It’s a way of trying to get the people that own buildings, whether they be homes or commercial buildings, to have some kind of financial mechanism to support removing any kind of blight, or put them in a responsible situation whereby you don’t have buildings sitting year by year and deteriorate and create health problems,” Lockett said.
Asked whether he knew if the proposed ordinance would withstand a legal challenge, Lockett said City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott did not identify any restrictions in state law that would prevent the ordinance. He said he thought the ordinance would be referred to either the city council’s Public Health and Welfare Committee or its Planning and Development Committee for further study.