Land banking, low-interest loans and financial disincentives are options Lakewood City Council wants to hear more about as they look for ways to regulate vacant and distressed properties in the city.
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Lakewood Planning Director Travis Parker gave a presentation on possible solutions to the problem during the July 18 Council meeting. Parker said the City had researched ways other cities had dealt with the issue and come up with a list of seven types of regulation that could potentially work in Lakewood.
“These properties represent a strain on city government,” Parker said. “Council saw some information (earlier) today about one property in Ward 5 that that had received over 40 service visits between police, code and fire (departments) over the course of about three years.”
Mayor Adam Paul said the issue was a topic of importance discussed at Council’s annual retreat.
Parker added that one way other cities have dealt with the problem is through simple tracking.
“Requiring registration of vacant properties is a common tool that cities use,” Parker said. “And then they’ll have standards for mitigation — either they have to have tenants within a certain timeframe; they have to maintain a certain level of repair and character, and usually these programs are tied with fees or fines for noncompliance.”
Land Banking is another common method other cities often employ, Parker said.
Cities engaging in land banking directly purchase blighted properties to hold or prep for redevelopment. Parker said cities use a fund to purchase and clean up the sites. When the site is ready for redevelopment or sale, the City can choose the type of buyer most beneficial to the area.
Short term no-interest or low-interest loans that provide financially strapped property owners the means to make necessary improvements — allowing them to sell without taking a loss — were also seen by Council as a way to help the city reduce blighted or vacant properties.
A memo from City Staff said vacant and distressed properties can have a significant impact on the surrounding area and the city as a whole. The memo also cited findings from a 2005 analysis of vacant properties, that a vacant property could impose as much as $34,000 in direct costs to local government agencies and as much as $220,000 in indirect costs to surrounding property owners.
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