The Logan County Dilapidated and Abandoned house ordinance went into full effect this morning as letters were mailed out to several residents who have structures on their property the county has identified as severely dilapidated and that present a safety or health hazard.
The ordinance, which was signed by the Logan County Commission on June 8, 2009, allows the county to identify dilapidated and abandoned structures and raze them if property owners don't clean them up themselves.
The four-page ordinance established the Logan County Dilapidated and Abandoned Enforcement Agency that consists of the county engineer, the county health officer, a county fire chief, two members at large selected by the county commission to serve two-year terms and the Logan County sheriff, who will be charged with enforcing the orders of the commission under the ordinance.
The ordinance says the enforcement agency will require the clearance of any unused or unoccupied dwelling, non-farm building, structure or manmade appurtenance, or any remnants thereof, or any refuse or debris on all private lands with the exception of any structure used for farming on farm lands, that has accumulated as the result of any natural or man-made force or effect which causes it to be a safety or health hazard.
The agency will accept and review written complaints from the general public and other county agencies and identify dilapidated and vacant structures as well as refuse, debris, toxic spills and seepage on private land in Logan County that could be hazardous to the community.
After identifying the hazardous structures, the county then will notify the owners and give them 30 days to respond. If the property owners don't respond within the 30 days or ask for a hearing on the property, the county then has the right to step in and take care of the problem itself.
The landowner may be ordered to repair, alter, improve, vacate, remove, close, clean up or demolish the hazardous structure, refuse and debris within a reasonable amount of time and a lien may be put against the property.
Landowners will have 60 days to comply with the commission's cleanup order or they will be fined $100 a day for each day past the 60-day limit.
If landowners don't comply with the commission's orders, the commission may then advertise for and seek contractors to bring the property into compliance with the order. The commission can then authorize the contractor to enter the land at any and all times necessary to bring the land into compliance with the ordinance.
From that point, the county commission will then seek reimbursement from the landowner for its costs of cleaning up the property, including the contractor's fees, attorney's fees, court costs and civil penalties. The commission can also force the landowners to sell the property to pay for these costs and any extra money made from the sale will go back to the property owners.
The ordinance was signed by then-Logan County Commission President Art Kirkendoll, Danny Godby and Willie Akers.
Registered letters went into the mail this morning to landowners of identified dilapidated houses that are already falling in and the most obvious in need of demolition, according to Logan County Commission President Danny Godby.
"It is the commission's hope that when residents receive these notices, they will choose to clean up their own properties," Godby said. "But, with the ordinance that has been put into place by the county commission, we are going to make sure the properties are cleaned up. The ordinance has a process that is printed in the ordinance. There is a timeframe for them to respond and if there is no response then the commission will move on to the next phase of the ordinance of going in and notifying that we are going to do the demolition. If the county has to tear them down, we will put a lien upon the property and there is a period of time we have to wait before we go to the court for sale of property to satisfy judgment liens. At that time, we will put those properties back out into the community's hands for, hopefully, revitalization of the county as adding property to the adjoining landowners or for someone else to be able to have a quality piece of land to build a house on."
Godby said the county is only looking for restitution for what it costs the commission to clean the property.
If property goes to public auction and it sells for more than the lien against it, the balance of that sale will be put into an account with the former property owner's name on it for them to claim.
"We're not looking for anything other than our cost to do the demolition," Godby said. "The county wants to clean up the property for the beautification of the county."
The ordinance was researched and drafted by County Attorney Brian Abraham and he will continue to work with the commission on the implementation of the ordinance, Godby said. Abraham will also oversee all actions taken by the commission to make sure the county is following the ordinance as written and legally pursuing each of the individual properties for the betterment of the county.
"We passed this ordinance back in 2009 and we have been working diligently to put it into effect," Godby said. "We now have come to the point where we are mailing out the letters to the landowners notifying them that they are out of compliance. The day has finally arrived for the process to begin where we can actually see some demolition happen. We hope the landowner will take responsibility for their property.
"This is something we have gone over several times. People from all ends of the county have been calling and asking when this is going to get started. The process starts right now. We want to see this come to fruition. One gentleman has been after us for awhile about some old trailers that need to be torn down. These old abandoned homes draw rodents and we went out and looked at them and they have been identified."
Godby said there are about 450 homes in Logan County that have already been identified as being in need of demolition and the first mailing includes around 80 that are considered top priority and ready to be razed.
Godby said the process will be ongoing with additional mailings and other properties could be identified in the future.
The process will also include abatement, which means that a Phase I environmental study will have to be done to check for asbestos and lead and other harmful materials. The properties that do not contain any harmful materials will be the first to come down. The structures that have hazardous materials in them will have to be abated before being placed into the county landfill.
Godby said the commission studied the dilapidated housing ordinances that have been used for several years by cities such as Huntington and Charleston in creating its own ordinance. He said the county had to take its time in studying and creating the ordinance to make sure everything was done right and within the law.
"But, now that we're started, the commission is committed to making sure we follow up and eradicate dilapidated structures in Logan County," Godby said. "We are looking to the future. Demolition has finally made it to Logan County to eradicate dilapidated housing."