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City Council passes vacant building registration ordinance

The Austin City Council unanimously approved the adoption and publication of a vacant building registration ordinance during its regular meeting Monday evening.

The purpose of the ordinance is to “protect the public health, safety and welfare” of Austin residents as vacant buildings “are a major cause and source of blight in residential and non-residential neighborhoods, especially when the owner or party responsible for a building fails to maintain and manage the building to ensure it does not become a liability to the neighborhood.”

Under the ordinance, the owner or responsible party will be required to register a vacant building within the city no later than 120 days after it has been vacated. The registration fee is $120.

The building would be subject to city inspections and the owner or responsible party would be required to maintain the building.

The ordinance also allows the city to notify the owner or responsible party to secure the vacant building within 10 days of notification should it be deemed hazardous. The city may forego the notification process and immediately secure the building should it pose an immediate threat. Any costs incurred by the city in securing a building may be charged against the real property.

Under the ordinance, a vacant building is defined as having the following criteria:

• An abandoned building;

• A building or a portion of a building that is open to entry by unauthorized persons without the use of tools or ladders;

• Mower County Recorder records show the property is in lien foreclosure;

• Windows or entrances to the property are boarded up or closed off, or multiple doors or windows are broken and unrepaired;

• Doors to the property are damaged, smashed through, caved in, broken off, unhinged, or continuously unlocked;

• The property is without gas, electric or water service;

• Rubbish, trash, putrescible materials or debris has accumulated on the property;

• Law enforcement agencies have received at least two reports of trespass, vandalism, or other illegal acts being committed on the property within 12 months;

• The yards on the property exhibit grass, lawn, weeds and other vegetation which are not maintained to the standards prevailing in the neighborhood and/or city code.

The ordinance takes effect July 1.