On the roll again: Property owners appeal — again — to council to be removed from higher tax roll

Published 9:18 am Monday, November 6, 2017

In a 4-2 vote, the Perryville City Council approved a request to remove the property at 208 South Jackson St. from the higher tax roll it has been on under the city’s abandoned urban property ordinance.

“I would make the suggestion that we do take them off for a couple of reasons,” council member Jerry Houck said. “One — they’ve persistently came and asked. We’ve been working on it and we’re trying to figure out the ordinance. I don’t want to undermine what (Fire Chief) Anthony (Young) has done, because he’s done it according to the ordinance that this council has written. But we know that there’s some issues. It doesn’t undermine, in my opinion, what Anthony has done because he did it by the ordinance. According to the ordinance, they’re at fault.”

Houck then turned to the property owners, Bill and Linda Faulkner.

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“I give you kudos for coming in and saying, ‘Please take us off, this is what we’ve done.’ But this is the last straw, I think. We can’t come back in 2018 and do this again. We’ve been doing it for four years now,” he said. “We have given Anthony the opportunity to do what Anthony is supposed to do. He’s followed his rules. These guys have been on this list for three years now. At some point, we need to say we’ve been forgiving enough.

“I get it, historic properties take a long time to do. At the same time, this is not a great big, huge house … At some point and time, they have to get finished.”

Houck was joined by council members Julie Clay, Paul Webb and Brian Caldwell to vote for removing the property from the higher tax roll. Council members JoAnn Reynolds and Steve Bailey voted against the request.

The property at 208 South Jackson St. has been on the list for repeated years. In 2015, the then-Perryville City Council agreed to remove the property from the higher tax roll. Last year, the council voted to increase the abandoned urban property tax fee from $2 to $7; this year, the council, many of whom were brought on in January, reversed that decision.

At a Feb. 2 meeting, the Faulkners again approached the council about being removed from the list, citing improvements ongoing to the building. They also asked for a revision to the ordinance, in order to establish an appeal process.

In the past, Fire Chief Anthony Young, who is tasked with determining properties in violation, creating the list and notifying property owners, had said the problem stemmed with the fact that the structure was not covered in some way, exposing the wood to the elements and allowing space for rodents or other creatures to make their way inside.

The owners maintained that the wood was not given to rot, as it was Oak. They said there was also a safety element to be considered, as the property had to be raised for the foundation to be removed and replaced, and they couldn’t do that if there was a covering around the building.

On Thursday, prior to the regular meeting, a committee consisting of council members Houck and Clay met with Mayor Anne Sleet, Young and City Attorney Winfield Frankel to discuss the ordinance, which many refer to as being punitive rather than encouraging people to fix their properties. 

At that time, Young said he wanted to see the ordinance changed, too.

“I’m not the aesthetic police,” he said. “I need something so we have something that is very definitive.”

During the meeting, he said he wants people to rehabilitate their properties.

“I have absolutely no problem with that. I have to look at the ordinance as it is written and enforce it,” Young said. 

During the meeting, Sleet expressed concerns that removing the Faulkners’ property would “open a can of worms” with others on the list. Clay said it needed to be considered on a case-by-case basis, and that others should have come forward.

Moving forward, the ordinance is going to be reviewed by Frankel in order to provide a right of appeal and to move the timeline up, as requested by the council. A formal letter is currently issued in October, but council member asked for that letter to be issued in April 1. He said he would bring the updates back to the council to review and request additional changes.

Frankel said they also need to refine the ordinance so that it works better with the condemned property ordinance.