The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Staff Photo by Joel Turner:
Some of the houses are in poor condition with full garbage cans on the lawn.
Monday, July 26, 2010
By JOEL TURNER - Staff Writer
Rocky Mount officials are receiving an increasing number of complaints about dilapidated houses, according to Assistant Town Manager Matt Hankins.
"There are some houses that are a nuisance, falling down and people are behind on their taxes," Hankins said.
Town officials are working with Town Attorney John Boitnott and Franklin County building officials to get some of the dilapidated houses condemned so they can be razed, Hankins said.
Hankins said he has about 10 houses on the list, including three or four that are condemnable now.
Meanwhile, town officials are making a survey of the town's housing stock to determine where to direct neighborhood stabilization efforts.
The goal is to take a long-term approach to stabilize neighborhoods over the next 10-15 years by addressing the most critical areas first, Hankins said.
Over time, probably within five years, the town should be able to build a working capital fund to eliminate blight issues as they arise, he said. This will also put people to work at local manufacturers and contractors.
Hankins said that he and Nathan Wright, code inspector and GIS technician, will be walking neighborhoods as part of the survey.
Rocky Mount has new legal tools that were approved by the Virginia General Assembly to help eliminate blighted properties in the town by demolishing or renovating them, Hankins said.
One option for the town is to push the owners of damaged and neglected structures to work with the town to eliminate the blight.
Town council can declare a property to be blighted, and then town officials can order the property owner to develop a plan to demolish or renovate the structure, Hankins said. Under this procedure, the town would establish a real estate tax abatement program for the properties that are renovated or demolished.
The real estate taxes could be abated for a maximum of five years to cover either the cost of demolition or the difference in the property value caused by the improvements, Hankins said. The real estate tax abatement is transferable to new owners, so it makes an incentive to potential purchasers.
The second option for eliminating blight is for the town to contract to have the property demolished or renovated. Town officials can declare a property to be derelict, and then contract to fix the property at town expense, Hankins said. The town can then place a lien against the property for the cost.
The General Assembly has also passed legislation that enables localities to charge a property owner for the cost of eliminating graffiti from a private building, wall, fence or other structure located on an unoccupied property. Unpaid costs become a lien against the property.