A controversial proposal for an ordinance that would have required owners of residential and commercial buildings in Richfield to register them if vacant for more than 30 days was passed by the city council last night after several amendments including an extension of 90 days rather than 30.
Such ordinances are popping up in cities all of the country and many are being met with fierce resistance. Cities want them because the foreclosure crisis - and slow real estate market - has left many communities with untended vacant buildings that can become troublesome eyesores. Many real estate agents in the Twin Cities metro area opposed the ordinance because it left owners of houses that were for sale, but unlived in, vulnerable to what they considered onerous regulations, additional fees and the threat of demolition if vacant for more than a year.
Based in part on concerns from real estate agents, including Edina Realty sales agent, Aaron Dickinson, Richfield councilwoman Sue Sandahl, said that the ordinance also included provisions allowing those who buy and rehab houses to present the city with a compliance proposal to get a waiver. She said that the city wants to encourage rehab of the city's vacant buildings. The ordinance requires owners of buildings that are/will be vacant for more than 90 days to register them with the city.
Dickinson said that while he supports the council's amendment to extend the vacancy limit from 30 to 90 days, he says 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 because of problems associated with the former Lyndale Garden Center building near 66th and Lyndale, which has been vacant for several years. She said that windows are broken, the property is unmaintained and that its condition has become hazardous. That site and one across the street from it - a former strip mall, are both being considered for redevelopment. Last night the Cornerstone Group, which has done several in-fill suburban redevelopment projects, presented a preliminiary redevelopment proposal for the Lyndale Garden site to the council.