Council hears property registration update

By Sheryl Roadcap - [email protected]

SIDNEY — The Sidney City Council received an update on the city’s vacant property registration program and recommendations for changes to the Sidney City Charter and City Council’s rules at its Monday night workshop session.

Kyle Havenar, vacant property inspector, provided an update on the program focused on abandoned and vacant properties around town. Council adopted an ordinance establishing the vacant property registration program in 2018.

Havenar shared the following current information:

• Active vacant property registration violations — 14;

• Violations closed — 169;

• Active vacant property registrations — 37;

• Active exemptions on file — 13;

• Affidavits of title recorded — 23;

Affidavits alert prospective buyers money is owed to the city for the vacant property program. Havenar included pictures of several properties where an affidavit of title had been recorded.

He said one administrative search warrant had been executed so the city could gain access to a vacant property in danger of collapsing. The property was deemed dangerous and was demolished. He also showed pictures of other three properties that were demolished in partnership with the Shelby County Land Reutilization Corporation (Land Bank).

Havenar outlined the following program actions to reduce vacant properties:

• Participated in the Chamber of Commerce leadership program;

• Obtained certification as a residential building inspector;

• Participating in all aspects of the zoning code rewrite;

• Leading the development and implementation of the Neighborhood Pride Grant;

• Researching other initiatives and programs to reduce vacant property issues.

He further spoke about the program’s following 2022 goals:

• Review data related to vacancy – such as low/no water use, condemned properties, foreclosures filed, etc.;

• Complete yearly round of community-wide windshield survey;

• Streamline registration process for efficiency;

• Implement the Neighborhood Pride Grant;

• Become a certified building inspector;

• Continue research the potential for a residential rental registration program best practices and successful programs;

• Collect demographic data related to rentals

• Partnering with ICC to celebrate building safety month for the month of May.

Council member Mike Barhorst asked about the number of vacant properties in Sidney compared to the 2010 census data on vacancy property statistics. Havenar said there were 87 currently, and he believes the census numbers dealt with individual units, versus a single building. Havenar further said a vacant property can remain vacant forever, as long as the owner complies with the city’s vacant property ordinance.

Community Development Director Barbara Dulworth clarified Havenar’s point, saying the census counts unit dwelling vacancies at the time of the counting and the local residential vacant property program identifies units that have been vacant for at least 90 days, have utilities off, or code enforcement violations. The city and census identifies vacant properties differently, she noted. Barhorst still expressed concern about properties sitting vacant for quite some time, including in his own neighborhood.

At the end of his presentation, Milligan thanked Havenar for his work and congratulated him on recently obtaining his certification to become a residential building inspector for the city of Sidney.

In other business, council members discussed the recommendation forwarded to council from the Sidney City Council Rules and City Charter Ad Hoc Committee by Law Director Dave Busick on the city charter and council’s rules.

The committee met three times to review the city charter and council’s rules. Of the several items listed, the committee felt three sections merited consideration by local voters, Busick said. Recommendations for the city charter include added language to three sections of the home rule powers, member restrictions and vacancies.

Busick then briefly went through proposed changes to council’s rules for abstaining from voting, conflict of interest and to clarifying wording in various places to better articulate meaning. He provided an red-lined copy of the rules, along with ad hoc meeting minutes for members to review.

The consensus among council was to hold the recommendations in the committee, Milligan said, until they determine which election to bring forth the proposed changes to voters to vote upon.

Vice Mayor Steve Wagner was absent Monday and he was excused by council.

By Sheryl Roadcap

[email protected]