[Adopted 4-20-2006 by Ord. No. 10-2006]
The purpose of this article is to create a system and set of specific criteria by which the owner of a structure which constitutes a public nuisance can develop a plan in concert with the Township for the rehabilitation of the public nuisance.
Ordinance to be complementary to other ordinances. This article shall be deemed to be part of the Township's Code of Ordinances. It shall be the Township's option, based on the specific criteria set forth herein, to determine whether or not the Township believes that the nuisance property is a viable candidate for rehabilitation. The decision to accept the nuisance property for rehabilitation under this article shall be made by the Township in its sole discretion.
Acceptance shall not act as a stay. The Township's decision to accept a nuisance property's rehabilitation plan shall not be a stay of the Township's right to continue to cite the nuisance property owner for continuing violations of the Township's ordinances. Regardless of acceptance under this article, the Township shall continue to have all of its rights, pursuant to its police powers, to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens.
As used in this article, the following terms shall have meanings indicated:
- ABANDONED or ABANDONMENT
- A property shall be deemed to have been abandoned under this article where the owner of a building or premises has, by action or inaction, failed to correct a serious health and/or safety violation on a structure or on the property surrounding the structure. The Township may determine that a serious health and/or safety violation may exist, by way of example only and without limitation, where one or more of the following conditions are found to exist:
- A. The structure has not been legally occupied for a period of 12 months. However, vacancy is not necessary to be considered a prerequisite to a finding of abandonment;
- B. The structure is in need of rehabilitation and has not been appropriately maintained during the unoccupied period.
- C. The owner has not initiated appropriate construction or improvements to the property for the past six months.
- D. There exists a lack of maintenance of a building or grounds which actually or potentially poses a risk to the public health, safety or welfare;
- E. The building is not structurally sound or where the building or its interior is otherwise unfit for healthy or safe habitation or access;
- F. Where vandalism at the property has gone unrepaired;
- G. The property has been in tax arrearage for at least one annual period;
- H. The lack of maintenance or use of the property promoted a degradation of the surrounding community affecting the public health, safety and welfare.
- I. The property has been determined to be a nuisance by the Township Engineer, Code Official, Township Manager and/or the Board of Commissioners, Board of Standards, or other governmental or quasi-governmental bodies charged with administering or determining code compliance and granted the appropriate authority.
- Any structure as defined within Chapter 240, Zoning, of the Code of Ordnances of South Fayette Township.
- PUBLIC NUISANCE
- A structure or property which constitutes a menace to the public health, welfare or safety or which is structurally unsafe, unsanitary, or not provided with adequate and safe ingress and egress, or which constitutes a fire hazard, or which may otherwise be dangerous to human safety due to its condition, or which in relation to existing uses constitutes a hazard to public health, welfare or safety by reason of inadequate maintenance, dilapidation, obsolescence or abandonment.
- Any man-made object having an ascertainable stationary location on land or in water whether or not affixed to the land.
Investigation. The Director of Engineering and Planning ("Director") or his/her designee shall be responsible for the investigation of all complaints concerning conditions which may create a public nuisance as defined within this section.
Determination. Upon complaint or request from the Township, the Director shall order a field examination of the site to determine whether a public nuisance exists as defined herein.
Order to comply. Should the Director, after inspection and investigate, find that a public nuisance exists at any building or property, he/she shall cause to be issued a written notification, served personally or by regular and certified mail addressed to the property owner as their names and address are shown upon the records of the County Tax Assessment Office. The notification shall declare the property to be a public nuisance and shall cite the conditions found constituting a nuisance. Notification shall order the property owner to comply. The notice shall allow the property owner up to 30 days (unless extended in writing within the sound discretion of the Director) to correct all listed violations; provided however, if the Director determines that the violations pose an immediate threat to the health, safety and welfare of its citizens, the Director may provide the property owner with a shorter period within which to correct the violations.
Compliance or appeal by the property owner. The property owner shall, after notice as stated above, complete all actions required to abate any violations as determined by the Director within the time period prescribed. Should the property owner contest the decision of the Director, an appeal in writing may be filed with the South Fayette Township Board of Standards at any time prior to the expiration of the 30 days from the date of the mailing of the notice.
Should the Director not effect certified notice or fail to receive confirmation of the receipt of the certified notice within 10 days of the mailing, he or she shall cause a public notification to be advertised in a local newspaper of general circulation for two successive days. Additionally, the Director shall cause a notice of violation to be conspicuously posted on the property in the manner prescribed by rule of court. After the second day of advertisement or the posting of the property, whichever is later, proper notice shall be deemed to have been provided.
The notice by publication prescribed herein shall include the address and county tax identification number of the property and the name of the property owner as listed on the County Tax Assessment Office records. Also included shall be a listing of the conditions found to be in violation of this article and the South Fayette Township Code.
The owner may defend against the citations by submitting a rehabilitation plan for the rehabilitation and reuse of the property and by posting cash or a bond equal to 115% of the amount determined by the Township Engineer to represent the project cost of rehabilitation. The rehabilitation plan shall include a financial feasibility analysis, budget and timetable for rehabilitation of the property, and documentation of qualification of those who will perform the rehabilitation.
The Director shall approve the plan if the rehabilitation plan, in the Director's sole determination, is likely to result in the expeditious rehabilitation and reuse of the property. The Director shall disapprove of the plan if unrealistic. If the plan is disapproved by the Director, the owner may appeal to the Board of Standards within 10 days of the disapproval of the Director. If the rehabilitation plan is approved, the Director shall monitor the owner's compliance. If the owner fails to carry out any step in the approved rehabilitation plan, the Director shall seek a forfeiter of the bond or the cash and shall authorize the use of the proceeds of the bond or the cash for rehabilitation of the property in accordance with the rehabilitation plan.
Following expiration of the thirty-day compliance period, if the owner has failed to: 1) make all repairs as noted in the violation notice; 2) submit a rehabilitation plan; or 3) to file an appeal to the Board of Standards, the Director shall submit a report to the Board of Commissioners requesting a determination of abandonment nuisance. The Board of Commissioners shall take action to consider determination of abandonment\nuisance following the conducting of a public hearing, which is to be advertised as provided herein.
The Board of Commissioners shall advertise in a newspaper of general circulation the time, date and location of the public hearing. The notice shall also include the address and tax identification number of the property, the name of the owner and a summary of the list of the violations. Notice of the public hearing shall be conspicuously posted by the Township at points deemed sufficient by the Township on and around the property to notify the owner and interested citizens at least seven days prior to the date of the public hearing. Written notice of the public hearing shall be sent by first class mail to all property owners, as shown on the tax assessment rolls, within 300 feet of the perimeter of the property for which the application is submitted.
Upon determination by the Board of Commissioners that a property constitutes an abandoned\nuisance property, the Township may proceed to have conditions remedied up to and including demolition, and the cost thereof shall be placed by the Township as a lien against such property to the same extent and character as a lien for real estate taxes and with the same penalties and interest and with the same rights of collection, foreclosure, sale and forfeiture as obtained for tax liens.
Upon final determination of a violation of the provisions of this article, the Director shall deliver a certified copy thereof and of the notice to the Township Secretary; the Township Secretary shall place the same record as a lien against the property described therein. The Township Solicitor is also directed to take such steps necessary to have the lien filed of record in the Office of the Recorder of Deeds of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
Upon completion of the required work and/or demolition by the Township, as provided in § 171-17, notice thereof and the cost assessed therefor shall be given to the owner in the same manner as prescribed for notices of violations, and the same assessed shall be due and payable 30 days after such notice of completion and cost, unless such assessment shall be appealed to the Township Board of Standards. If said amounts remain unpaid, the Township is explicitly authorized to include such amounts in its lien to be filed pursuant to this article.
Any such person shall have the right to appeal the assessment of costs within 30 days of service of notice thereof. Such appeals shall be taken to the Township Board of Standards.
If requested by the owner, the Township may accept title to the property; provided, however, that the Township is under no obligation to accept an offer of ownership transfer. The Board of Commissioners will review each such request on the basis of outstanding liabilities, value of property, location of property, short- and long-term maintenance costs and benefit to the community. With the granting of possession to the Township of the property determined to be abandoned, the owners will be relieved of any future Township taxes and/or other municipal liens and charges. However, the owner shall continue responsibility for mortgages and charges by any party incurred on the property before or after the granting of possession. The owner shall not be relieved of any civil or criminal liability or any duty imposed by reason of acts of omissions of the owner relating to the property.
If the Township accepts ownership of the property, the Township shall have the right to sell the property to a third party or to make such other use of the property as the Township sees fit, in its sole discretion. If the Township sells the property, the Township Secretary is authorized to place a lien on the property to cover any costs the Township incurred prior to the sale of the property.
Any person or entity in violation of this article shall be, upon conviction, subject to a fine of not more than $6,500, plus costs of prosecution and reasonable attorneys' fees. In default of payment of such fine, costs and fees, said person in violation shall be subject to a term of imprisonment of not more than 30 days. Each day's violation shall be considered to be a separate offense under this article.