GALLIPOLIS — Gallipolis City Commission passed its first reading of an ordinance Tuesday evening which would penalize property owners who failed to maintain maintenance standards set forth by the city structural code department, as well as pass its final measure which would allow city legal counsel to begin court eminent domain procedures on a Fourth Avenue property.
The city has been attempting to contact a little over 10 different lien holders and owners of an old carryout property at 754 Fourth Avenue since July 2015. The passage of an ordinance Tuesday night has granted the city solicitor authority to move forward with legal action in the Gallia County Court of Common Pleas to appropriate the property and then reportedly demolish and rehabilitate the property.
“We’re trying to make it easier to be reactive to some problems that come up,” said Gallipolis City Solicitor Adam Salisbury about dilapidated structures in town. “With new (paperwork) forms, we’re trying to be more proactive too to make sure buildings aren’t getting into some of the conditions that they are in.”
City Manager Gene Greene said the city would be attempting to join fire and code inspections together in order to disrupt homeowners and business owners as little as possible. Code Enforcement Officer Brett Bostic, Salisbury and Greene have been discussing over the better course of a year how to tackle the problem of structure erosion within municipal limits.
“We’re having the first reading of the vacant property and building registration ordinance,” said Salisbury. “This is an ordinance which we’ve been talking about for a month or so. The ordinance we have talked about before previously in not much detail, but we tried to put this together with existing ordinances and a couple of other statues that we found in different villages across the state.”
Salisbury went on to say the ordinance would establish registration for owners of vacant buildings, whether they be residential or commercial. The buildings would need registered with the code enforcement officer. The ordinance would also establish an inspection schedule for a twice-a-year examination. The ordinance would also attempt to establish an escrow practice in which if an owner was looking to demolish a structure, then an owner would need to offer an amount of money as an insurance bond with the city. According to Salisbury, this would promote owners to destroy a building completely. If not, the city could then use the money in holding to finish the demolition. Lastly, the proposed ordinance would create a fee schedule if a vacant building was not being remodeled or occupied. The first year a building owner would pay $200 on the vacant or non-remodeled building. The fee would then double every year to a maximum of five years.
In other matters, property owners Steve Holmes and Robbie Jenkins approached the commission about the replacement of a street light which was previously damaged by a motor collision at the old US Bank property in downtown Gallipolis. Holmes and Jenkins asserted insurance money from the incident had been paid to the city and they wished to see the light pole replaced. Holmes and Jenkins reportedly own the old bank property. Greene said he felt replacing the street light would be difficult as it was an old model and molds would need taken of similar street lamp models which may be cost prohibitive to allow the replacement of the pole. Greene also said the city had not yet been able to replace multiple other street lights and felt that would not be fair to other business owners and residents to only do one light and not others due to city budget problems.
City commissioners discussed the ability to replace street lights in the downtown area and attempts to potentially find grant funding to enable the replacements. The discussion was tabled for another day and nothing was officially decided during the meeting.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.