[HISTORY: Adopted by the Borough Council of the Borough of West Grove as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
[Adopted 5-6-2003 by Ord. No. 2003-03]
This article shall be known and may be cited as the "West Grove Borough Abatable Structure Ordinance."
The purposes of this article include, but are not necessarily limited to:
Providing a procedure for determining whether structures or parts of structures are, by virtue of their condition, dangerous or harmful to the public health, safety and welfare and should be demolished by the Borough;
Providing notice to the property owner and a reasonable opportunity to abate the public nuisance before the Borough does; and
Providing a procedure by which demolition and/or removal of an abatable structure may be done by the Borough.
Unless otherwise expressly stated, the following words, when used in this article, shall have the meanings indicated below. The present tense includes the future tense, the singular number includes the plural number, the plural number the singular, and the masculine gender includes the feminine and neuter genders.
- ABATABLE STRUCTURE(S)
- A structure(s), or part thereof, which is:
- A. A public nuisance and nuisance in fact for any reason which may involve, but is not limited to, the structure being:
- (1) Dangerous or hazardous to the public safety;
- (2) Likely to cause accidents, sickness or disease to the public;
- (3) An attractive nuisance to and a danger to children;
- (4) A habitat for vectors or vermin;
- (5) Damaged by fire, wind, vandalism, infestation or any other cause or deteriorated or decayed due to neglect, failure to maintain or complete or any other cause to a degree which has rendered the structure subject to collapse or structural failure;
- (6) In violation of Borough property maintenance regulations; and/or
- (7) Incomplete, not being actively worked on or kept secure and which has no economic value; and
- B. A nuisance that can be abated efficiently, by the Borough, only by demolition of the structure.
- The Borough of West Grove, Chester County, Pennsylvania.
- Any structure having a roof, designed to be enclosed by walls.
- The Borough Council.
- Chester County, Pennsylvania.
- The Borough's Code Enforcement Department.
- DEPARTMENT'S DETERMINATION
- A Zoning Officer's/Building Inspector's determination that a structure is an abatable structure that the Borough should demolish.
- Each and every legal owner of the property.
- The parcel or parcels of land upon which an abatable structure is located.
- RECORDER'S OFFICE
- The Recorder of Deeds in and for the county.
- Any man-made object having an ascertainable stationary location whether or not affixed to the land; all "buildings" and other constructed improvements to real property, including but not limited to retaining walls, towers, antenna, stand pipes, erected poles, paving, equipment and/or fixtures attached to a building and/or other constructed improvement and underground facilities, are structures for purposes of this chapter.
- TAX RECORD OWNER
- The record owner(s) of the property as identified on the current real estate tax records of the County Department of Assessment Appeals or as identified by a title company.
- TITLE COMPANY
- A real estate title insurance or abstract company authorized to do business as such in Pennsylvania.
- ZONING OFFICER/BUILDING INSPECTOR or OFFICER
- A Borough official authorized by Council to enforce this chapter.
The owner of a structure(s) found to be (an) abatable structure(s), pursuant to the procedures established by this article, shall abate such nuisances promptly, completely and in compliance with all applicable regulations.
Whenever it shall be reported to or come to the attention of the Borough Manager, the Borough Engineer, Public Works Department personnel, the Fire Marshal, the Fire Chief, any member of any Fire Department or any Borough police officer that any structure, whether complete or in the process of construction, or any portion of such structure, is or may be dangerous to public safety or in any way a public nuisance, that person should notify the Department, and also provide the Department with written confirmation of such notice. Such notice shall briefly describe the structure and the dangerous conditions, and identify the property by street address and, if known to the reporter, the owner's name(s) and address(es) and any other information believed by the reporter to be helpful to the Department for purposes of this article.
Upon receipt of information, from any source, that a structure is or may be an abatable structure, the Department shall investigate the structure promptly.
If a Zoning Officer/Building Inspector determines (i.e., makes a Department's determination) that a structure is an abatable structure, the Officer shall issue a violation notice ("abatable structure notice") and may also issue a cease-and-desist order or any other order or process to the tax record owner and, if known to the Officer, to the owner(s), if different from the tax record owner. The abatable structure notice should:
Identify the property and structure by street address (if available) and county real estate tax parcel number;
Identify the condition(s) which the Officer finds cause the structure to be a public nuisance;
Identify the type of public nuisance(s) that the structure causes;
Identify the Borough regulation(s) that the structure violates;
State that the Officer has determined that the structure is not capable of being repaired efficiently and that the Borough should demolish or remove the structure if nuisance conditions are not abated promptly and in compliance with all applicable regulations;
Identify what actions must be taken to eliminate the nuisance and regulatory violations and by what time such actions must be completed;
State that unless the public nuisance is abated to the Department's satisfaction or an appeal is taken from the Department's determination, the Borough may, after 30 days from service of this abatable structure notice or, if the Department's determination is appealed, upon a final unappealable order in any such appeal, demolish and remove the structure at the owner's cost and lien and execute on the property for the Borough's costs, including but not limited to attorney's fees and interest on all such costs, until paid;
The date on which Council will hold a hearing: (a) on any appeal from or challenge to any of the Department's determinations identified in this notice; and (b) to determine what the Borough should do as a result of the Department's determination that the structure(s) should be demolished if not repaired so that the public nuisance is eliminated; and
State that the owner(s) and any other interested party(ies) have the right to appeal the Department's determination and order to the Council, at any time which is at least five days prior to the date set for Council's hearing, that such appeals must be in writing, must identify the appellant(s) by name and address, must identify the reasons why the Department's determination is challenged and must be filed with the Borough Secretary.
The abatable structure notice shall be served upon the tax record owner of the property and may be served upon the following to the extent known to or reasonably discoverable by the Department, and to the extent different from the tax record owner:
The Department may secure, from the Recorder's Office or any title company, a copy of the current record deed or other indenture and/or a title report for the property and may ascertain from such documents and/or the Recorder's Office or title company, the owner(s) and any mortgagee and/or other interested party.
Service of the abatable structure notice shall be made, by personal service or by any form of mail requiring the addressee's signed receipt, on the tax record owner(s) and may be made in such manner on any other person identified in § 138-6A or any such person's authorized agent. Service shall be complete upon such personal delivery or delivery of such mail. If such mail to the tax record owner(s) is returned with the notation, by the United States postal authorities, that the addressee did not accept the mail or that it was not claimed, the Department shall serve the abatable structure notice by mailing a copy to the tax record owner(s) at the same address by regular mail, postage prepaid, with the return address of the Department appearing thereon. If such mail service to parties other than the tax record owner(s) is returned with the notation, by the United States Postal authorities, that the addressee refused to accept the mail or that it was not claimed, the Department may serve the abatable structure notice by mailing a copy to such person at the same address by regular mail, postage prepaid, with the return address of the Department appearing thereon. The abatable structure notice may be served by regular mail, for purposes of this Subsection C, at the same time that it is mailed in a manner requiring the addressee's signed receipt. No matter when made, service by regular mail shall be considered complete if the mail is not returned to the Borough within 15 days after mailing. If such regular mail notice, sent to a tax record owner, is returned within 15 days after mailing, the notice shall be given by publication pursuant to Subsection E.
The abatable structure notice may be affixed to the abatable structure or posted on the property in a manner that, given the condition of the structure and the property, will be visible from the street or at the structure's main entrance.
The abatable structure notice may also be advertised in the public notice section of a newspaper of general circulation in the Borough once, not more than 30 days nor less than seven days prior to the hearing.
No one, other than the Borough, shall do work on the structure(s) unless and until all Borough regulatory procedures (e.g., applications, plans, permits) and requirements applicable to such work are complied with. Proposing work and/or doing work on the structure(s) to eliminate nuisance conditions and violations will be considered at the hearing. However, such work will not extend any time for appeal and/or extend or stop the hearing and/or the Borough's proceedings pursuant to the Department's determination and/or this notice, unless the Department issues a new written determination that such work has abated the nuisance and violation conditions so that demolition of the structure(s) is no longer necessary.
Council shall hold a public hearing ("hearing") on: (1) any appeal of the Department's determination; and (2) actions on the proposed demolition. The hearing shall begin not less than 90 days after the date the Department issues its determination, unless the Department issues a new written determination that such work has abated the nuisance and violation conditions so that demolition of the structure(s) is no longer necessary.
Any party who or which wants to challenge or appeal the Department's determination must file a written appeal at least five business days prior to the date the hearing commences. The appeal must identify the appellant(s) by name and address and the specific reasons why the Department's determination is challenged. Appeals must be filed with the Borough Secretary. Any basis for challenges not identified in reasonable detail in the written appeal filed with the Borough Secretary is waived.
After the hearing is concluded, Council shall issue an adjudication ("adjudication") on any appeal. The adjudication shall be in writing and may include findings of fact, conclusions of law, a statement of reasons for the adjudication and an order.
The hearing is to be conducted and any adjudication rendered by Council pursuant thereto shall be made and any appeal therefrom taken in accordance with the Local Agency Law (2 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 551 et seq. and 751 et seq.), as amended.
Any person or entity who or which wants to have party status at the hearing and with respect to the adjudication must file a written entry of appearance and must establish the basis of the person's or entity's interest. Such party status is limited to the issues before Council at the time of party status as requested (e.g., the issues raised by an interested party's appeal).
The adjudication required by § 138-8C should be rendered by Council on or before its first regular meeting, at which a quorum is present, which is at least 30 days after the close of the record of the hearing.
Council's adjudication shall be served upon all parties or their attorney of record by first-class regular mail, postage prepaid. The date the adjudication is mailed is the date it is "issued" for appeal purposes. Therefore, a cover letter should be mailed with the adjudication, which letter should state the mailing date.
Any order issued as part of the adjudication may contain provisions requiring the subject structure or any portion thereof to be repaired, stabilized, secured, fenced, removed, demolished or vacated, or may contain such other directive(s) as Council shall deem appropriate to protect the public health, safety and welfare. The order may establish times by which such work must be begun and completed. All work shall be done in compliance with all applicable regulations and the order shall not waive any such regulations. The order may also give notice that the Borough may demolish and remove the structure, at the owner's expense, if the work required by the order is not completed timely and in compliance with all applicable regulations. All work should be subject to Borough inspection.
Any appeal of the adjudication and order issued by Council shall be filed with the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County within 30 days after the date of any such adjudication and order is issued, all as required by the Local Agency Law.
Council, in making the adjudication on any appeal, shall consider whether the evidence presented pursuant to the hearing is sufficient to permit it to find and conclude that:
The structure is in such a condition that it is dangerous to the health, safety or general welfare and/or is a public nuisance, a nuisance in fact and an abatable structure;
The structure cannot be repaired economically so that it will no longer be a public nuisance; and
The abatable structure should be demolished and removed by the Borough.
In determining whether reasonable repairs can be made to a structure to eliminate the conditions cited in the abatable structure notice, Council may consider, among other things, the estimated cost of such repairs; the time required to make such repairs; the danger to the occupants of the structure, to neighboring structures and persons, and to the general public; the estimated value of the structure before and after the necessary repairs; the existence of liens or claims of any nature against the property; the ability and willingness of the owner or other responsible persons to effect the repairs in a timely manner.
When Council's adjudication and order becomes final (e.g., because no appeal to court is pending and the time for appeal has run or because appeals are exhausted) and Council's order, or any provision thereof, has not been complied with within the time allotted, so that the abatable structure is still a public nuisance, the Borough may cause such abatable structure or portion thereof to be demolished and removed and all the Borough's costs (including attorney's fees for the condemnation, demolition and collection) and expenses of any such demolition and removal, together with a penalty of 10% of the cost, may be charged and assessed against the property and shall be a municipal lien and claim thereon until paid in full. Such claims shall earn interest at the maximum rate authorized by statute.
[Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. I)]
In addition to the right of the Borough to recover all costs and expenses and interest thereon, as a municipal claim and lien, the Borough shall have the ability to recover such costs in an action at law or in equity against any and all persons or entities which were the property's owner(s) at the time the order was violated and/or the demolition and removal work was done. Council intends that the remedies of this Subsection B shall be in addition to the Borough's other rights and remedies under Subsection A.
The Borough's rights and remedies under this section are intended to be cumulative and in addition to and not to limit any other Borough right and/or remedy.
[Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. I)]
Any person who violates or permits a violation of this article shall, upon being found liable therefor, pay a fine of not more than $600, plus court costs and reasonable attorneys' fees incurred by the Borough in the enforcement proceedings. If the penalty is not paid, the Borough shall initiate a civil action for collection in accordance with the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure. Each day a violation exists shall constitute a separate offense, and each section of this article that is violated shall also constitute a separate offense. In addition to or in lieu of enforcement under this section, the Borough may enforce this chapter in equity in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County.
Notwithstanding anything else in this article, in any case where it reasonably appears to the Department and/or Manager that there exists an immediate danger to the life, safety or health of any person and/or property by virtue of the existence of an alleged abatable structure, the Manager may, but is not obligated to, cause the immediate stabilization, demolition and/or removal of any such structure and to take such other actions all to the extent reasonably necessary to eliminate the immediate danger.
Promptly after determining that an emergency case exists, the Manager shall undertake to notify, by the best means reasonably possible, the owner(s) and any occupants of the structure which is in the dangerous condition.
All costs and expenses of such emergency repair, stabilization, demolition or removal with respect to any structure or portion thereof shall be recovered by the Borough as a municipal claim and lien.
After the Borough emergency work is complete, the Department shall issue an abatable structure notice, with respect to the emergency conditions and any conditions that it determines should result in additional demolition by the Borough. The procedures of this article will be used to adjudicate any challenge to the emergency action as well as any additional action.