Smyrna Town Council may be coming down harder on property owners with vacant buildings if the July 2 meeting is any indication of where several members stand on the issue.
Council discussed the status of two currently vacant buildings in town at 404 and 431-437 Smyrna-Clayton Boulevard.
Town Manager Dave Hugg approached council about the two properties after seeking bids for the demolition of 404 Smyrna-Clayton Blvd., and a bid for repair of 431-437 Smyrna-Clayton Blvd.
“These two properties have been vacant and neglected for a number of years,” Hugg said. “We’ve been working diligently over a long period of time with the property owners to try and get them to take some interest in either fixing the buildings or removing them.”
The building at 404 Smyrna-Clayton Blvd. has been deemed a dangerous building, hence the bid to demolish the building. Hugg said the property owner from 431-437 had recently expressed interest in improving the appearance of the building which is not yet considered a dangerous building. There were no bids to repair the building.
To demolish or not to demolish?
While some members of council were for the demolition of 404 and ultimately 431-437 Smyrna-Clayton Blvd. there were questions raised by Mayor Pat Stombaugh about where the money will come from to pay for demolition.
Councilman Anthony DeFeo asked if the town is collecting fees under the Vacant Lot ordinance, which requires property owners of vacant lots to pay escalating fees based on the number of years the property is vacant. Hugg said there’s a vacant building list and there was previously a recommendation made that these fees be used for this particular purpose.
While Stombaugh continued to state her concern that there’s no extra money in the budget for the demolition of the 404 property, concerns were raised by DeFeo and other council members should they choose not the demolish the property — ranging from the possibility of the building catching fire to the fact children tend to play in the vacant buildings in town.
“We need to draw the line in the sand somewhere,” DeFeo said. “We have these eyesores that sit there for years and years and years, and we don’t do anything about it because it’s expensive and we don’t want to spend the funds.”
Part of a bigger problem?
Councilwoman Joanne Masten said these two buildings are just part of a bigger problem throughout town; however, these buildings are some of the first ones people see as they drive into town from Clayton.
“We’re not proving to any landlord in town that we’re willing to take an action,” Masten said. “We have buildings on the Four Corners decaying. We’ve got buildings down the street decaying but we’re not doing anything.”
Page 2 of 2 - While Masten doesn’t want to see the taxpayers pay for the demolition of a building, she also doesn’t want to see the town in the same situation 20 years down the road.
DeFeo concurred with Masten stating that it’s time property owners see that council has some teeth and that they’re not going to allow this to continue: “We want to bring new business into this town, bring new people into this town but we’ve got to address these vacant, dilapidated structures we have.”
Council ultimately approved the $12,800 bid to demolish the property at 404 Smyrna-Clayton Blvd. The motion was approved 5-1; Stombaugh voted no and Councilwoman Regina Brown wasn’t at the meeting.
Since there were no bids to repair the 431-437 property, council approved a motion 5-0 for the town to continue the process of seeing if the property should be ruled a dangerous building and eventually demolished; Councilwoman Valerie White abstained.
However, talk regarding how the town deals with vacant buildings isn’t over. Councilman Jeff Flairty suggested the town look into options such as the vacant lot fees for ways to pay for the demolition of buildings while Councilman Bob Johnson suggested including a line item in future budgets for these needs.
“If you don’t fix it, we tear it down,” Johnson said.
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