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Anchorage Assembly cracks down on empty, boarded-up buildings

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: July 26, 2016
  • Published July 26, 2016

Owners of empty, boarded-up buildings will have to start paying fees after the Anchorage Assembly passed an ordinance Tuesday evening that aims to crack down on the city's vacant and abandoned structures.

Under the ordinance, owners of empty or abandoned buildings will have to register with the municipality and start paying an annual fee, which begins at $100 for the first year, grows to $300 by the third, and increases from there based on the property's size.

The Assembly approved the ordinance in a 10-1 vote Tuesday, with Assembly member Amy Demboski voting against the measure.

The vote followed brief discussion and questions posed to municipal staff. Municipal Attorney Bill Falsey told the Assembly the ordinance would give the city the ability to manage its problem with vacant and abandoned buildings through the registry.

"This mechanism allows us to get our hands around the total scope of the problem," Falsey said. "I don't think that this would give us new abilities to order that a building be demolished."

The ordinance defines a vacant building as one not lawfully used for residential or commercial purposes for 180 days.

No later than 31 days after a building becomes vacant or abandoned, the owner must post signs on doors and windows that say "No Trespassing" and include the name and contact information of the owner or a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner. This requirement does not apply to residential properties that aren't boarded up, Falsey said.

City officials have said the signs will make it easier for Anchorage residents to find contact information for property owners so they can report any problems with empty buildings.

The ordinance also requires owners of vacant buildings to secure any entrances, in addition to keeping the structure from falling into further disrepair.

Other fines in the ordinance include a $10 daily fee for failing to register a structure, a $100 daily fine for failing to maintain or secure a property, as well as a flat $200 fine for failing to post signs.

According to a memorandum from Mayor Ethan Berkowitz to the Assembly, department budgets are expected to absorb the costs of administering the new ordinance.

The ordinance will likely generate less than $30,000 in revenue each year, the memo said. Though since it's unknown just how many vacant buildings and abandoned properties exist in Anchorage, revenues could not be estimated "with any degree of certainty," it said.

Tuesday's ordinance will take effect in 30 days, according to Falsey.

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