Beginning June 1, 2020, the owners of unoccupied commercial buildings in the Town of Smithfield will face new scrutiny. At their February 4th meeting, members of the Smithfield Town Council adopted a Commercial Building Maintenance and Appearance Ordinance designed to address vacant properties that are falling in disrepair. The Ordinance also creates a Vacant Property Registry to allow town staff to more easily keep up with vacant buildings.
Councilman Travis Scott said he understood the intent of the ordinance but asked if it wasn’t simply more red tape for commercial property owners. Scott also questioned Planning Director Stephen Wensman on what defined a vacant building and whether a building was technically vacant if the owner still had power or other utility services connected.
Under the ordinance and registry, owners of vacant commercial properties in the Smithfield city limits must pay a $15 per year fee beginning June 1st to register their building. Those failing the register are subject to a civil fine of up to $50 per day.
Under the new ordinance, minimum building standards will also take effect on June 1st. Highlights of the new standards include: the exterior or buildings must be painted and maintained in a way that does not exhibit any evidence of vacancy; yards must be maintained; decks and porches must be maintained; windows and doors must be intact and operable; visible rotting of buildings shall be corrected with the exterior painted and kept in good aesthetic condition; storefronts and facades must be maintained; interiors, when visible to passersby through storefront windows, must be maintained in a way that does not exhibit evidence of vacancy; cleared lots must be neatly maintained; the property must be maintained in a secure manner so as not to be accessible to unauthorized persons, including the closure and locking of windows, doors, gates, and openings; and broken windows must be replaced.
The Ordinance will also request inspections of vacant properties and enforcement penalties will be instituted. The rules also establish an appeals process using the Board of Adjustments.
Town Manager Mike Scott said the new ordinance probably applies to 20 or less commercial buildings.