Junction takes aim at abandoned and blighted properties with new ordinance

Ordinance places violating properties on higher tax roll

Junction City Council had first reading on an abandoned urban property tax ordinance, establishing a higher tax roll for properties that qualify.

“It’s a problem. Merl and I have been out, and Cory went out to some of them. It’s ridiculous what is out here. It’s dangerous to our neighbors — to the whole city,” said Junction City Mayor Jim Douglas. “I’ve walked in some of these places. It’s pathetic.”

He said some of the houses probably had rats and snakes because they were allowed to remain uninhabited, and in some cases, dilapidated.

“We’re going to have to take some kind of drastic move to try and correct it. We’ve beat our head against it — I have, feels like the last 10 years. We’ve been to court time and time and time again. We’ve got to do something, something that will do some kind of result. That’s why I think we should levy this tax,” Douglas said.

The ordinance mimics a similar one in Perryville, said City Attorney Lynne Dean.

It establishes “Abandoned Urban Property” as any “vacant structure or vacant or unimproved lot or parcel of ground” that has been vacant or unimproved for at least one year and:

• “Because it is dilapidated, unsanitary, unsafe, vermin infested, or otherwise dangerous to the safety of person, it is unfit for its intended use; or

• By reason of neglect or lack of maintenance has become a place for the accumulation of trash and debris, or has become infested with rodents or other vermin; or 

• Has been tax delinquent for a period of at least two years.”

Assessment will begin Jan. 1, 2018, and properties finding themselves on the list will be levied a tax of $5 per $100 of value, beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

The determinations will be made by a City Safety Department, consisting of the fire chief, police chief and mayor. A property will remain on the list “until such time as the owner shall notify the city and the city shall find the property has been repaired, rehabilitated, or otherwise returned to productive use.”

Dean explained that more cities are moving toward similar ordinances in facing the problem that Junction does in trying to get property owners to fix up their blighted and abandoned properties.

“The state allows it — a lot more cities are doing this,” she said.

There are “several” properties in town, Douglas said. 

“It’s not our fault. It’s not Lynne’s fault. I know we’ve worked diligently on a couple of properties,” he said. “I’m in favor of this ordinance.”

The first reading passed unanimously. A second reading will be held at the council’s May meeting.

Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.