A new rule requires owners to register and pay a fee once properties are empty for 90 days.
Richfield has joined a growing number of communities around the country that require owners of vacant properties to pay a fee and register them.
An ordinance passed Tuesday night by the Richfield City Council imposes the requirements once a property is vacant for 90 days. The city originally had proposed 30 days, but that plan met heavy resistance from some property owners and real estate agents.
Similar ordinances are popping up all over the country as communities grapple with the challenges of a rising number of vacant buildings, especially buildings that have gone through foreclosure. Minneapolis and St. Paul have long had similar rules.
As Richfield and others have discovered, an empty house or storefront can become a troublesome eyesore.
Aaron Dickinson, a sales agent with Edina Realty, said he opposed the ordinance because it left people who were trying to sell their homes and had already moved out vulnerable to fees and what he considers onerous regulations -- including demolition if the building is vacant for more than a year.
Richfield Council Member Sue Sandahl said modifications to the ordinance were made in response to concerns from the community, and that the intent was not to harm responsible property owners. For example, she said that there are now provisions that allow those who buy and rehab houses to present the city with a compliance proposal to get a waiver from the new restrictions.
The ordinance also includes a break for snowbirds.
Sandahl said that Richfield wants to encourage rehabilitation of its vacant buildings.
Dickinson said that although he supports the council's amendment to extend the vacancy limit from 30 to 90 days, the bill targets the wrong issue.
"Vacant buildings are not the issue, dilapidated buildings are," he said. "There are many occupied buildings that are in horrible shape that are completely missed by this ordinance and many vacant buildings that are models of maintenance that are caught by this rule."
Sandahl said that the initial proposal came about in part because of problems associated with the former Lyndale Garden Center building near 66th and Lyndale, which has been vacant for several years.
She said windows are broken, the property isn't being maintained, and it presents a potential safety hazard. That site and one across the street from it, a former strip mall, are both being considered for redevelopment. The Cornerstone Group, which has done several in-fill suburban redevelopment projects, presented a preliminary redevelopment proposal for the Lyndale Garden site to the City Council on Tuesday.
Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376