The Mayor has requested that Council consider an ordinance for amortization of houses which had previously been granted exemption as “4-3” and “4-4” dwellings under the City’s “4 to 2” law; a budget amendment establishing a fund for purchasing derelict properties at tax sale; and a discussion of a proposed Community Development Initiative for combatting blight in Salisbury.
Amortization of Legal Non-Conforming Uses
Aimed at bringing rental owners into compliance with the City’s “4 to 2” law, the bill would establish an amortization period for dwellings which were granted a “4-3” or “4-4” exemption. Of roughly 400 rentals registered as being occupied by 4 non-related persons, 377 were granted exemptions as “legal non-conforming” properties. At the end of the amortization period, all legal non-conforming uses would be required to return to either a maximum of two (2) non-related inhabitants, or the intended use of single-family occupancy.
Legal non-conformity allows multiple non-related occupants to live in houses which were not originally designed to accommodate anything more than a single family. This fundamentally alters the character of neighborhoods by driving down property values, adversely affecting the quality of life for residents, and drawing a disproportionate amount of City resources for code violations and police calls for service. It is the administration’s position that bringing these properties into compliance with the already-existing “4-2” law is a necessary step in preserving the integrity of neighborhoods which look more and more like dormitories every day.
“This experiment has failed. It is imperative that we act on these properties now, because every day that we allow them to essentially skirt the spirit of the law is another day of damage done to neighborhoods which have suffered enough already,” said Mayor Ireton. "The term ‘legal non-conforming use’ is an oxymoron. Our single-family neighborhoods are at a crossroads—either we do something now or we continue to let them slide, making it even more difficult for families who are already invested to stay put, and for new families to choose to make these neighborhoods their homes.”
Budget Amendment for Buying Vacant and Abandoned Properties at Tax Sale
According to Salisbury’s Vacant Building Registry, there are 187 vacant and/or abandoned houses within City limits. The effect of these properties on their surrounding communities is demonstrably negative, causing losses in neighborhood property values, increases in crime and vagrancy, and public health concerns. The proposed budget amendment would set aside $45,000 for a fund which the City would use expressly to purchase vacant and abandoned homes at tax sale. Starting in FY2016, an additional $500,000 in bonded debt would be earmarked for acquisition, rehabilitation, repurposing, demolition, and legal fees. Homes bought by the City would be determined to be either eligible for donation to Habitat for Humanity or Salisbury Neighborhood Housing Service, or unfit for rehabilitation and demolished.
Community Development Specialist
A successful Community Development Initiative depends in large part upon the ability to keep all wheels pointed and moving in the same direction. The proposed addition of a Community Development Specialist ensures the success of these initiatives by creating a position for someone who can identify funding sources, and coordinate with the various agencies involved to shepherd properties through the tax sale process. Additionally, the Community Development Specialist will establish and maintain good relationships with local non-profits such as SNHS and Habitat for Humanity to execute rehabilitation of procured housing units and or/new construction projects on cleared lots.
“These three proposals are imperative to the future of Salisbury neighborhoods,” said the Mayor. “They are solutions which present the ability to make immediate progress on issues which have plagued our neighborhoods for years. I urge concerned citizens, and neighborhood association representatives and activists to attend the work session and let the Council know that we need real, immediate action.”
221: Number of multi-family dwellings granted 4-3 exemptions
156: Number of multi-family dwellings granted 4-4 exemptions
4,889: Police calls for service to 4-3 properties since 2006
2,745: Police calls for service to 4-4 properties since 2006
1,998: Code violations for 4-3 properties since 2010
664: Code violations for 4-4 properties since 2010
187: Number of structures on the Vacant and Abandoned Properties Registry
37: Number of Vacant and Abandoned homes boarded up for longer than 2 years
62: Number of currently condemned structures
167: Registered foreclosed properties
61: Number of houses currently up for tax sale inside City limits