Unsafe Buildings

ORDINANCE NO. 2015 – 4496

AN ORDINANCE TO PROVIDE FOR THE VACATION, REMOVAL, REPAIR OR DEMOLITION OF ANY BUILDING OR STRUCTURE WHICH IS OR THREATENS TO BE A PUBLIC NUISANCE, DANGEROUS TO HEALTH, MORALS, SAFETY OR GENERAL WELFARE OF THE PEOPLE OF THE CITY OF PELL CITY, ALABAMA, OR WHICH MIGHT TEND TO CONSTITUTE A FIRE MENACE; AND FOR THE ASSESSMENT OF THE COST OF VACATION, REMOVAL, REPAIR OR DEMOLITION THEREOF AS A MUNICIPAL LIEN OR ASSESSMENT AGAINST SUCH PREMISES, AND TO PROVIDE FOR THE RECOVERY OF SUCH COSTS AS PROVIDED BY LAW

WHEREAS, in the City of Pell City, Alabama, there are, or may in the future be, parcels of real property that are occupied by buildings or structures or parts of buildings and structures, party walls and foundations that due to poor design, obsolescence, or neglect, have become unsafe, dangerous and unsanitary to the extent of becoming public nuisances and a menace to the health, morals, safety, and general welfare of the people of the City of Pell City and an impediment to economic development within the City of Pell City, Alabama. It is the intent of the City of Pell City, Alabama, to minimize the adverse effect of the described unsafe conditions upon the health, morals, safety, and general welfare of the citizens of this City and property located within this City and to that end the City Council of the City of Pell City adopts this Ordinance.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE CITY OF PELL CITY, ALABAMA, AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1. DEFINITIONS:

  1. Appraised Value” means the improvement value assigned to the property by the Revenue Commissioner of St. Clair County, Alabama, as described on the Property Record Card for the property maintained in the office of the Revenue Commissioner of St. Clair County, Alabama.

B. “Appropriate Municipal Official”, also referred to as “Official” herein, means any municipal building official or deputy and any other municipal official or municipal employee designated by the City Manager of the City of Pell City as the person to exercise the authority and perform the duties delegated by this Ordinance.

C. “Circuit Clerk” means the Circuit Clerk of the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, Alabama.

D. “Circuit Court” means the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, Alabama.

E. “City” means the City of Pell City, Alabama.

F. “City Clerk” means the City Clerk of the City of Pell City, Alabama.

G. “City Council” means the City Council of the City of Pell City, Alabama.

H. “City Manager” means the City Manager of the City of Pell City, Alabama.

I. “Owner” means the person or persons, firm, association or corporation who is the record owner of the property according to the records in the office of the Judge of Probate of St. Clair County, Alabama, and the person last assessing the property for taxes according to the records of Revenue Commissioner of St. Clair County, Alabama.

J. “Person” means any natural or legal person including, but not limited to, partnerships, corporations, and limited liability companies.

K. “Unsafe, untenable, or dangerous condition” means all buildings or structures that have any or all of the following defects:

1. Those which have improperly distributed loads upon the floors or roofs or in which the same are overloaded, or which have insufficient strength to be reasonably safe for the purpose used;

2. Those which have been damaged by fire, wind, and/or other causes so as to have become dangerous to life, safety, morals or the general health or welfare of the occupants or the people of the City of Pell City, Alabama;

3. Those which have become or are so dilapidated, decayed, unsafe, unsanitary or which so utterly fail to provide the amenities essential to decent living that they are unfit for human habitation, or likely to cause sickness or disease, so as to work injury to the health, morals, safety, or general welfare of those living therein;

4. Those having light, air, and sanitation facilities which are inadequate to protect the health, morals, safety, or general welfare of human beings who live therein or may live therein;

5. Those having inadequate facilities for egress in case of fire or panic or those having insufficient stairways, elevators, fire escapes, or other means of evacuation;

6. Those which have parts thereof which are so attached that they may fail and injure members of the public or property;

7. Those which, because of their condition, are unsafe, unsanitary, or dangerous to the health, morals, safety, or general welfare of the people of this City;

8. Those buildings existing in violation of any provision of the building code or any other relevant code of this City, or any provisions of the fire prevention code, or other ordinances of this City.

SECTION 2. OWNERS TO KEEP BUILDINGS IN SAFE AND TENABLE CONDITION:

It shall be unlawful for any person owning any building or structure in the City of Pell City, Alabama, to keep or maintain the same in an unsafe, untenable, or dangerous condition. It shall be the duty of every person owning any building or structure in the City to keep the same in a safe and tenable condition or to cause the same to be removed.

SECTION 3. STANDARDS FOR REPAIR, VACATION, OR DEMOLITION:

The following standards shall be followed in substance by the Appropriate Municipal Official in ordering repair, vacation, or demolition:

A. If the unsafe, untenable, or dangerous condition can reasonably be repaired so that it will no longer exist in violation of the terms of this Ordinance, it shall be ordered repaired;

B. If the unsafe, untenable, or dangerous condition is such that it makes it dangerous to the health, morals, safety, or general welfare of its occupants, it shall be ordered to be vacated;

C. In any case where there exists an unsafe, untenable, or dangerous condition such that the building or structure is damaged or has decayed or deteriorated to the extent that the current value of said building or structure is valued at fifty percent (50%) or less of its Appraised Value, then the building or structure shall be ordered demolished;

D. In all cases where a building in an unsafe, untenable, or dangerous condition cannot be repaired so that it will no longer exist in violation of the terms of this Ordinance, it shall be demolished;

E. In all cases where an unsafe, untenable, or dangerous condition exists such that it creates a fire hazard existing or erected in violation of the terms of this Ordinance, or any Ordinance of the City or statute of the State of Alabama, it shall be demolished.

SECTION 4. BUILDINGS OR STRUCTURES IN AN UNSAFE, UNTENABLE, OR DANGEROUS CONDITION – NUISANCES:

All buildings or structures which are found to exist in an unsafe, untenable, or dangerous condition within the terms of this Ordinance are hereby declared to be public nuisances and shall be repaired, vacated, or demolished as hereinbefore and hereinafter provided. The City may, after notice as provided herein, move or demolish buildings and structures or parts of buildings and structures, party walls, and foundations when found by the City Council to be unsafe to the extent of being a public nuisance from any cause.

SECTION 5. DUTIES OF THE APPROPRIATE MUNICIPAL OFFICIAL:

A. Whenever the Appropriate Municipal Official (“Official”) upon making a visual inspection finds that any building, structure, part of building or structure, party wall, or foundation (hereinafter referred to for purposes of this Section as “the building”) situated in the City is unsafe to the extent that it is a public nuisance, the Official shall make a determination of the extent of the unsafe, untenable, or dangerous condition. The Official shall make a written record of the defective condition observed by the Official that causes the Official to conclude that the building is unsafe, untenable, or dangerous. The Official shall note in the written record whether the building qualifies for repair or demolition.

B. The Official shall verify ownership of the property based upon the current tax assessment in the Office of the Revenue Commissioner of St. Clair County and shall confirm ownership by an examination of the land records in the Office of the Judge of Probate of St. Clair County. The Official shall verify whether the property is subject to any liens or mortgages by an examination of the public records in the Office of the Judge of Probate of St. Clair County, Alabama.

  1. After verifying ownership of the property, the Official shall make a written request of the Owner for permission to enter upon the property and into any building for the purpose of further inspection. Upon securing written permission from the Owner of the property, the Official shall enter upon the property and into any buildings for the purpose of conducting an inspection of the building. Following the inspection, the Official shall, as in the case of making the initial inspection, make a written record of the defective conditions observed by the Official that cause the building to be unsafe, untenable, or in a dangerous condition. A failure or refusal of the Owner of the property to grant permission for entry into the building to the Official within fourteen (14) days of the request shall cause the notice required in Section 6 to be issued immediately by the Official without further inspection; provided, however, if in the judgment of the Official the condition of the building constitutes an immediate and present danger of risk of injury to the public (“an emergency situation”), the Official shall use the most convenient and expeditious means of notifying the Owner of the property of the unsafe, untenable, or dangerous condition and ordering the Owner of the property to make immediate repair of the property or take necessary steps to remedy the property in such manner as to remove the risk of injury to the public. Upon failure of the Owner of the property to make repair within five (5) days of the delivery of said notice of an emergency situation, City may proceed to make the repairs to remedy the unsafe condition, and the costs thereof shall be assessed and collected as hereinafter provided by this Ordinance. In the event of an emergency situation, all other provisions of this Ordinance regarding notice and right to appeal shall be suspended.

SECTION 6. NOTICE:

A. Following the inspection required in Section 5(C), the Official shall give notice in writing by certified or registered mail to the following:

1. the Owner of the property at the address listed on the property assessment in the Office of the Revenue Commissioner of St. Clair County, Alabama; and ,

2. to any transferee or Grantee of said Owner as may be determined from an examination of the real property records in the Office of the Judge of Probate of St. Clair County, Alabama; and,

3. to all lienholders and mortgagees of record

B. Contents of the Notice – The notice shall:

1. inform the Owner of the unsafe, untenable, or dangerous condition of the building or structure by providing to the Owner a copy of the written record of inspection made by the Official;

2. direct the Owner to develop a plan of work to remedy the unsafe, untenable, or dangerous condition of the building or structure and to provide the written plan of work to the Official not later than (25) days from the date on the notice, or to develop a plan to demolish the building or structure, which plan shall be submitted within the same time period;

3. inform the Owner that prior to performing work on the building or structure, the Owner shall obtain a building permit in accordance with the provisions of all applicable regulations and ordinances and shall submit the administrative fee required by Section 8 of this Ordinance;

4. inform the Owner that a public hearing will be held before the City Council on a date stated in the notice, which date shall not be less than thirty (30) days of the date on said notice;

5. inform the Owner that at said hearing before the City Council the Owner shall have the opportunity to state objections to the finding by the Official that the building or structure is unsafe to the extent of becoming a public nuisance; and,

5. inform the Owner that failure by the Owner to respond to the notice provided by the Official as provided in this Ordinance within the time allowed may result in the building or structure being declared a public nuisance by the City Council following the public hearing and being demolished by the City, and the cost thereof assessed against the property and collected as hereinafter provided by this Ordinance.

C. Plan of Work – The plan of work submitted by the Owner shall include:

  1. a detailed plan of the repairs to be made;

  1. the estimated cost of the repairs;

  1. the estimated time for completion of the repairs; and,

  1. the identification of the qualified licensed contractor performing the repairs, including the name, address and license number of the contractor and written evidence of a contract between the Owner and the contractor for the repairs to be made on the property.

D. Alternative to Plan of Work – Alternatively, the Owner may choose to demolish the building, and upon making such election, the Owner shall notify the Official in writing of the Owner’s intent to demolish the building. The reply from the Owner to the Official shall be made within twenty-five (25) days of the date appearing on the notice.

E. Effect of Notice – The mailing of the certified or registered mail notice, properly addressed and postage prepaid, shall constitute notice as required herein.

F. Posting Notice – The Official shall post the notice, or a copy thereof, within three (3) days of the date of mailing at or within three feet (3′) of an entrance to the building or structure. If there is no entrance, the notice may be posted at any location on the building or structure.

G. Lis Pendens – The Official shall prepare or cause to be prepared and filed a Lis Pendens in the office of the Judge of Probate of St. Clair County, Alabama, identifying the property subject to the enforcement provisions of this Ordinance by name of the owner, the legal description of property, and the physical address of the property.

SECTION 7. OBJECTIONS AND HEARING:

A. Time for Response and Content of Response – Within the time specified in the notice described in Section 6, but not more than twenty-five (25) days from the date the notice is given, any person owning or having an interest in the building or structure described in the notice shall do one of the following:

1. File written objections to the finding by the Official that the building or structure is unsafe to the extent of becoming a public nuisance; or

2. File a plan of work that shall include the information required by Section 6(C); or,

3. Give written notice to the Official of the Owner’s intent to demolish the building as set forth in Section 6(D).

SECTION 8. ACTION BY CITY COUNCIL:

A. After the public hearing as noticed in Section 6 above, the City Council shall determine whether or not the building or structure is unsafe to the extent that it is a public nuisance. If it is determined by the City Council that the building or structure is unsafe to the extent that it is a public nuisance, the City Council shall either approve and accept at the public hearing the plan of work or order the building or structure to be demolished.

1. In the event the City Council approves and accepts at the public hearing the plan of work, the following procedure shall apply. The proposed time for completion of the repairs shall be within sixty (60) days from the date of the public hearing, except as provided herein, and the Owner shall pay an administrative permit fee to the Building Inspector of the City of Pell City that shall be in addition to any required building permit fees as follows:

a. an administrative permit fee for a plan of work to make and complete repairs within the sixty (60) day period following the date of the public hearing shall be Two Hundred Fifty and no/100 ($250.00) Dollars;

b. an administrative permit fee for a plan of work to make and complete repairs in more than sixty (60) days but less than one hundred (120) days from the date of the public hearing shall be Five Hundred and no/100 ($500.00) Dollars;

c. the cost of an administrative permit fee for any extension of time for completion of the work after one hundred twenty (120) days shall be Two Hundred and no/100 ($200.00) Dollars for each thirty (30) day extension; provided, however, no extension shall be granted for a period that extends more than one hundred eighty (180) days from the date of the public hearing.

d. No work may commence or proceed without the payment of the administrative permit fee and applicable building permit fees and the issuance of the required building permit. The time period for the permit shall run from the date of the public hearing, not from the date of the issuance of the permit. The administrative permit fee and all building permit fees paid by Owner shall be non-refundable.

e. During the permit term, if adequate progress is not being made according to the Owner’s proposed plan of work, then the Official shall:

i. issue an order to cease work. Upon issuance of the cease work order, the issue of whether the building or structure constitutes a public nuisance shall be resubmitted to the City Council at a public hearing. Notice of such hearing shall be by certified or registered mail and provided in the manner set forth in Section 6(A); or

ii. inform the City Council of the Owner’s intent to demolish the building or structure and the time within which the building will be demolished.

2. In the event the City Council orders the building or structure to be demolished at the initial public hearing, or if the Owner informs the Official that the building or structure is to be demolished and said demolition is not completed within thirty (30) days following the date of the initial public hearing, or if the Owner fails to complete the plan of work and following notice and a second public hearing pursuant to Section 8(A)(1)(e)(i), then the City Council shall:

a. declare by resolution that the building or structure constitutes a public nuisance and ordering the building or structure demolished by the Owner; and,

b. upon failure of the Owner to demolish the building within thirty (30) days from the date of said resolution, the City may proceed to contract for the demolition of the building or structure or demolish the building or structure by the use of the City’s own forces, and the costs thereof shall be assessed against the property as provided in Section 9. The City may sell or otherwise dispose of salvaged materials resulting from the demolition.

B. A filing under Section 7(A), above, shall hold in abeyance any action on the finding of the Official until determination thereon is made by the City Council.

C. Any person aggrieved by the decision of the City Council at the public hearing conducted pursuant to the provisions of this Ordinance, may, within ten (10) days thereafter, appeal to the Circuit Court upon filing with the Circuit Clerk notice of the appeal and bond for security of costs in the form and amount to be approved by the Circuit Clerk. Upon filing of the notice of appeal and approval of the bond, the Circuit Clerk shall serve a copy of the notice of appeal on the City Clerk and the appeal shall be docketed in the Circuit Court, and shall be a preferred case therein. The City Clerk shall, upon receiving the notice, file with the Circuit Clerk a copy of the findings and determination of the City Council in its proceedings. Any trials shall be held without jury upon the determination of the City Council that the building or structure is unsafe to the extent that it is a public nuisance.

SECTION 9. REPORT OF DEMOLITION AND COLLECTION OF COST:

A. Upon demolition of the building or structure, the Official shall make a report in writing to the City Council of the cost of the demolition. The City Clerk shall give notice by first-class mail of the meeting of the City Council at which the fixing of the costs is to be considered to all entities having an interest in the property whose address and interest is determined from the St. Clair County Revenue Commissioner’s records on the property or is otherwise known to the City Clerk. A copy of the report filed by the Official with the City Council shall be included in the said notice.

B. At its next regular meeting after receiving the report, the City Council shall adopt a resolution fixing the costs which it finds were reasonably incurred in the enforcement of this Ordinance and assessing the costs against the property. The proceeds of any moneys received from the sale of salvaged materials from the building or structure shall be used or applied against the cost of enforcement of this Ordinance including any costs of demolition.

C. Any person owning or having an interest in the property may be heard at the meeting as to any objection to the fixing of the costs or the amounts thereof.

D. The fixing of the costs by the City Council shall constitute a special assessment against the lot or lots, parcel or parcels of land upon which the building or structure was located and thus made and confirmed shall constitute a lien on the property for the amount of the assessment. The lien shall be superior to all other liens on the property except liens for taxes, and shall continue in force until paid.

E. The City Clerk shall give notice by first-class mail of the adoption of the resolution fixing the costs of demolition to all persons owning or having an interest in the property whose address and interest is determined from the St. Clair County Revenue Commissioner’s records on the property or is otherwise known to the City Clerk. Payment of the amount of the costs of demolition shall be due within thirty (30) days from the date of the adoption of the resolution.

F. Upon nonpayment of the amount of the costs of demolition, the City Clerk shall file a certified copy of the resolution in the office of the Judge of Probate of St. Clair County and shall furnish a copy of the recorded resolution to the St. Clair County Revenue Commissioner. Upon filing, the St. Clair County Revenue Commissioner shall add the amount of the lien to the ad valorem tax bill on the property and shall collect the amount as if it were a tax and remit the amount to the City.

G. The City may assess the costs authorized herein against any lot or lots, parcel or parcels of land purchased by the State of Alabama at any sale for the nonpayment of taxes, and where assessment is made against the lot or lots, parcel or parcels of land, a subsequent redemption thereof by any person authorized to redeem, or sale thereof by the State, shall not operate to discharge, or in any manner affect the lien of the City for the assessment, but any redemptioner or purchaser at any sale by the State of any lot or lots, parcels or parcels of land upon which an assessment has been levied, whether prior to or subsequent to a sale to the State for the nonpayment of taxes, shall take the same subject to the assessment. The assessment shall then be added to the tax bill of the property, collected as a tax, and remitted to the City.

SECTION 10. PENALTY FOR VIOLATION:

In addition to the declaration of public nuisance and abatement of public nuisance as provided for herein and the right to reimbursement of costs and liens associated therewith, as an additional remedy and penalty, the Official may cause a complaint to be filed in the Municipal Court of the City of Pell City alleging a violation of any provision of this Ordinance against any person found to be in violation of this Ordinance, which said complaint shall be heard and tried in the Municipal Court of the City of Pell City in the same manner as other violations of municipal ordinances of this City. Any person found to be in violation of any of the provisions of this Ordinance, in addition to any other public nuisance abatement provisions and costs provided for hereinabove in this Ordinance, shall, upon conviction, be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished as follows: for first time violations of any section or provisions of this Ordinance there shall be imposed fine of not less than $50.00 for the first offense plus court costs; for the second violation of any section or provisions of this Ordinance, there shall be imposed a fine of not less than $100.00, plus court costs; for any violation after the second violation of this Ordinance, there shall be imposed a fine of not less than $200.00, plus court costs. A violation occurs upon failure of the Owner to take any required action ordered by the City Council in accordance with the provisions of Section 8 of this Ordinance, and each day thereafter in which a violation occurs or continues shall be deemed a separate offense.

SECTION 11. SEVERABILITY:

All sections of this Ordinance are hereby declared to be severable; and if any word, phrase, clause, sentence, paragraph or section of this Ordinance shall be declared unconstitutional or invalid by the judgment or decree of any court of competent jurisdiction, such unconstitutionality or invalidity shall not affect any of the remaining words, phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs and sections of this Ordinance.

SECTION 12. EFFECTIVE DATE:

This Ordinance shall take effect from and after the date of its adoption and publication, as provided by law.

SECTION 13. REPEAL:

Ordinance No. 2001-1590 and any other ordinance, or portion thereof, in conflict with this Ordinance shall be and is hereby repealed on the effective date of this Ordinance.

ADOPTED AND APPROVED this 24th day of August, 2015.

/s/ James McGowan, Council President

ATTEST:

/s/ Penny Isbell, City Clerk

APPROVED this 24th day of August, 2015.

/s/ Joe T. Funderburg, Mayor

ATTEST:

/s/ Penny Isbell, City Clerk

CERTIFICATION

I, Penny Isbell, Clerk of the City of Pell City, hereby certify that the above Ordinance was duly adopted by the City Council of the City of Pell City at a regular meeting held on the 24th day of August, 2015, and that same has been published in accordance with law in the St. Clair News Aegis on the 27th day of August, 2015.

/s/ Penny Isbell