[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Watertown 9-3-2019 by L.L. No. 2-2019. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor's Note: This local law also provided that it shall take effect on 12-1-2019.
It is the finding of the City Council of the City of Watertown that buildings in the City which remain vacant are unsightly, unsafe and have a negative effect on their surroundings. This is particularly troublesome in City residential and commercial neighborhoods. Unfortunately, many buildings, once vacant, remain that way for many years. The purpose of this chapter is to establish a program in the City of Watertown to identify and register vacant buildings; to determine the responsibilities of owners of vacant buildings and structures; to ensure that the structures do not deteriorate; and to speed the rehabilitation process of vacant properties.
Unless otherwise expressly stated, the following terms shall, for the purpose of this chapter, have the meanings indicated in this section:
- CODE ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
- A duly authorized representative of the Bureau of Code Enforcement.
- Those shown to be the owner or owners on the records of the City of Watertown Assessor's office, those identified as owner or owners on a vacant building registration form, or a mortgagee in possession, assignee of rents, receiver, executor, trustee, lessee, or other firm, corporation or person(s) in control of the premises. Any such persons shall have a joint and several obligations for compliance with the provisions of this chapter.
- SECURED BY OTHER THAN NORMAL MEANS
- A building secured by means other than those used in the design of the building such as doors, locks, window locks, etc.
- A building or portion of a building which is open to entry by unauthorized persons without the use of tools or ladders.
- A. A building or portion of building in the City of Watertown which is:
- (1) Unoccupied and unsecure;
- (2) Unoccupied and secured by other than normal means;
- (3) Unoccupied and unsafe as determined by a Code Enforcement Officer;
- (4) Unoccupied and has multiple housing or building code violations;
- (5) Illegally occupied;
- (6) Unoccupied building for sale or rent and has multiple housing or building code violations which are not under repair with a valid building permit.
- B. A vacant building with properly maintained building and grounds which meets the State Property Maintenance Code is exempt from registration. (This includes vacant buildings for sale or rent, provided that the property is being actively marketed for sale or rent).
The owner shall register a vacant building with the Bureau of Code Enforcement no later than 30 days after the building becomes vacant.
The registration shall be submitted on forms provided by a Code Enforcement Officer and shall include the following information given by the owner:
A description of the premises, including, but not limited to, square footage, number of stories, age of building, and most-recent use of the building.
The names and addresses of the owner or owners; if the owner is a corporation, limited liability company, or partnership, the address for each director, manager, member or partner, as the case may be. The address must include a street address; a post office box is not an acceptable address.
If the owner does not reside in Jefferson County or any adjoining county, the name and address of any third party with whom the owner has entered into a contract or agreement for property management. The address must include a street address; a post office box is not an acceptable address.
The owner of a vacant building shall pay a registration fee as established by the City Council through a resolution that adopts a City Fees and Charges Schedule. The registration fee is due and payable upon registration: to wit, no later than 30 days after any building becomes a "vacant building," as defined above, or no later than 30 days after being notified by a Code Enforcement Officer of the required registration.
If the building is to remain vacant more than 90 days, then the owner will also annually pay a vacant building inspection fee as established in the current City Fees and Charges Schedule. This inspection fee is due and payable together with the registration fee.
Buildings to be rehabilitated.
If the building is to be rehabilitated or returned to a permitted use allowed within the zoning district within 90 days, then no registration is required as long as it meets the following:
Plans must be filed with the Bureau of Code Enforcement for the rehabilitation of the building.
The plans must contain a start and/or estimated completion date.
Plans must also contain benchmarks calling for progress to be achieved at thirty-, sixty- and ninety-day intervals.
Failure to meet the above benchmarks without just cause will require the owner to register and pay all fees associated with the registration process, and these will become due yearly until the rehabilitation has been completed and a certificate of occupancy or a certificate of compliance with this chapter has been issued or the structure has been demolished.
If the owner of a vacant building fails to register within 30 days of being notified by a City Code Enforcement Officer, the annual inspection fee will be charged in addition to the registration fee. If the owner fails to pay the fees in a timely manner, the registration fee plus the administration fee as established by the City Fees and Charges Schedule will become a lien upon the property whereon such conditions exist or are located and shall be added to and become a part of the taxes next to be assessed and levied upon such lot or land and shall bear interest at the same rate as taxes and shall be collected and enforced in the same manner as taxes.
The Code Enforcement Officer shall inspect any premises in the City believed to be a vacant building for the purpose of enforcing and assuring compliance with the provisions of this chapter. Upon the request of the Code Enforcement Officer, an owner may be required to provide access to all interior portions of an unoccupied building in order to permit a complete inspection.
Once a year, the Code Enforcement Officer shall provide the City Manager with a list of all buildings in the City declared vacant under the provisions of this chapter, as well as a list of all previously declared vacant buildings which are no longer subject to the provisions of this chapter. This listing shall be forwarded to the City Council.
Any person violating any provisions of this chapter, including, but not limited to, failure to register, or providing false information to the Code Enforcement Bureau, shall be subject to the following penalties:
Such person will be subject to a penalty of $500 for the first month and $1,000 for each subsequent month that the registration required by this chapter is not timely performed. The term "person," as used in this section, will include the owner, occupant, mortgagee or vendee in possession, assignee of rents, receiver, executor, administrator, trustee, lessee, agent or any other person, firm or corporation directly in control of the building or part thereof.