Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Abandoned Building report addresses under-utilized properties

Bringing owners and cities together

Posted

PATEROS – A new Economic Alliance report prepared by a committee of stakeholders addressing abandoned buildings and vacant land in Okanogan County communities was introduced to the Pateros City Council at its regular monthly meeting on Sept. 18.

The Abandoned Building/Vacant Lot Subcommittee comprised of a mix of small business owners and city and county officials produced the report to help building and property owners and cities alike with recommendations to bring idle or vacant properties back into production. Economic Alliance Executive Director Roni Holder-Diefenbach explained the key elements of the report in a visual presentation to the council.

Holder-Diefenbach began by explaining that the driving force behind the report was the late Pateros City Council member George Brady who passed away last June.

“This was the brainchild of…George Brady,” said Holder-Diefenbach. “He told me we are going to take this on because it is such a huge issue throughout Okanogan County.”

The report Identified the concern confronting cities that are dealing with a lack of revenue from vacant unproductive buildings, many of those located in the downtown cores. The report also identified an opportunity to stimulate a dialogue between city and property owners to kickstart opportunities for small business to have a place to operate, for property owners to see once again a return on investment, and for cities to benefit from the revenue generated from sales taxes and utility fees.

“We identified several of our communities do not require a business license,”
 said Holder-Diefenbach. “This (business license) is instrumental to knowing who is doing business in your area.”

The 10-page report includes examples drawn from other communities in the state showing how they are identifying and solving vacant building issues.

“It was really important for us to identify different RCW’s, WAC’s and ordinances within the state,” said Holder-Diefenbach, “so cities can use examples to follow that are being used here.”

The report contains a half-dozen recommendations:

1. Require a building or landlord to have a business license.

All cities utilize the Department of Revenue to incorporate an annual business license requirement in order to do business within their community including property owners who plan on leasing their property.

2. Vacant building registration.

Cities implement a vacant building and lot registration to be completed as soon as a building or lot is vacated. The registration would include fees. An owner with numerous properties would register each separately. An example fee structure:

      Initial Registration Fee - $250

      6 Months Vacancy Fee - $250

      1 Year Vacancy Fee - $500

  •     Year Vacancy Fee - $750

      2 Year Vacancy Fee - $1000+

3. Utility fees.

The building owner continues to pay utility fees on a vacant building. The fees will assist the maintenance of current infrastructure and help offset fees for building inspection and code enforcement,

4. Create an ordinance on unfit dwellings, building, and structures.

Unkempt, unsafe, unsanitary, and otherwise improperly maintained premises and structures, sidewalks and easements within the city pose hazards to public health, safety, and welfare. They adversely affect the value, utility and habitability and cause damage to adjoining and nearby properties.

5. Create an empty building toolkit.

Create a toolkit for building owners to market their building and to access small business resources that have access to potential tenants.

“The Economic Alliance can help building owners put together a marketing tool,” said Holder-Diefenbach. “We get inquiries all the time for what is available for sale, for lease, or for rent.”

6. Update city code regarding window and door coverings.

Require building owners to cover vacant building windows and doors in aesthetically pleasing signage and art.

Holder-Diefenbach used the Economic Alliance office windows as an example. Two windows and a door are covered with one-way graphics (occupants can see out; outside viewers cannot see in).

“We bought that locally for $135,” said Holder-Diefenbach of the price for one of the coverings. “It’s affordable, can provide advertising, and solves the problem of people seeing the inside of the vacant building.”

Mike Maltais: 360-333-8483, michael@ward.media

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