Proposed law on demolition facing changes

November 28, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

A proposed ordinance that would give Westminster city government power to demolish buildings that are judged unfit for human habitation is facing some changes.

The changes are intended to provide safeguards for property owners' rights and historic buildings, according to Council President Kenneth A. Yowan, who co-sponsored the ordinance.

Councilwoman Rebecca A. Orenstein, who raised concerns on those issues when the ordinance was introduced at the Nov. 14 council meeting, said last week she still has misgivings.

"It just bothers me that we're giving ourselves the right to do this," she said.

"I can think of instances where if a philanthropic organization like Christmas in April hadn't helped the owner, that building would easily have qualified" for demolition under the ordinance.

Standard council procedure would be to vote on the ordinance at tonight's meeting, the first meeting after its introduction.

But Mr. Yowan said the vote will be delayed to allow City Attorney John B. Walsh Jr. to add requirements for a recommendation from the Westminster Historic District Commission and City Council approval concerning any proposed building demolition.

Ms. Orenstein said she wouldn't want to see the ordinance used against historic buildings that haven't been maintained.

Mr. Yowan said the city needs the ordinance to give it clout with property owners who let their buildings deteriorate.

Vacant, boarded-up buildings can attract rats and become hangouts for drug users, Mr. Yowan said.

He said he had no objection to Historic District Commission review or council approval of a recommendation to demolish a building.

"We're not looking to tear down any significant historic buildings," Mr. Yowan said.

The proposed ordinance would allow the city Public Works director to order an owner to demolish a building if:

* It is in such poor condition that people cannot live there.

* The owner has refused or ignored previous orders to repair the building.

If the owner refuses to demolish it, the city would go to court for a demolition order.

Mr. Yowan said the property owner retains protection because the city will have to get court approval to have the building demolished.

The revised ordinance is expected to come up for a council vote next month.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. today at City Hall.

The agenda includes seating a new council member to replace Mr. Yowan, who will become mayor.

Mayor W. Benjamin Brown was elected to the county commission and will take office Dec. 5.

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