Editor's note: This article was published September 23 in The Journal Record newspaper. This presentation has been edited to provide highlights that relate to OSHBA members.
By Brian Brus
Courtesy of The Journal Record
OKLAHOMA CITY - City Council members took a big step recently toward working around limitations imposed by the state Legislature in dealing with dilapidated structures.
The amendments would significantly escalate fines and improve the assessment and recoupment of abatement costs associated with more than 12,000 abandoned properties in the city. The council unanimously supported the proposed ordinance changes. Further discussion is planned for Oct. 7, with a final vote Oct. 21.
City officials last year commissioned a study to clarify the effects of dilapidated properties and suggest a solution. The work by GSBS Richman Consulting found that vacant and abandoned buildings in Oklahoma City cost $2.7 billion in lost property values annually and $6.5 million in city services.
But then the Oklahoma Legislature quickly passed the Protect Property Rights Act to keep municipalities from creating such registries under the justification of protecting owners with well-kept properties from incurring unfair costs.
The bill was supported by the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association, Oklahoma Credit Union Association, Oklahoma Bankers Association and the National Federation of Independent Business.
City Councilman Pete White at the time said that legislators incorrectly perceived a conflict between personal rights and communal responsibility, and council members have since expressed frustration at how state government won't let municipalities govern themselves. Tuesday's ordinance language was a response to the constraints created by the new state law, City Manager Jim Couch said.
Bob Tener, the city's development services director, said staff has rebuilt last year's abandoned buildings ordinance to create what he called an escalation strategy for fines related to exterior property maintenance code violations, with penalties rising from $100 to $300 and $500 on subsequent responses by city employees.
"The proposed ordinance will create a schedule of escalating class A fines to increase the pressure on the offender to remedy the problem," Couch said in a supporting memo to council members.