At the June General Membership meeting, Lori Houston, Director of Center City Development and Operations, and Shanon Miller, Director of the Office of Historic Preservation, gave a joint presentation on a new ordinance City staff is proposing, the Vacant Building Registration Pilot Program.

The program would apply to all vacant buildings in the central business district, local historic districts, and any individually designated historic landmark building. Owners of vacant buildings would be required to register their buildings with the City and meet minimum maintenance guidelines. For example, boarded-up windows are currently acceptable under compliance codes. With this new pilot program, boarded windows would no longer be acceptable and all windows would have to be repaired and have glass. Other requirements include: exterior wood and metal surfaces protected by paint, property address visible from the street, structural members and foundations structurally sound, and the property owner must carry insurance coverage on the building. The annual registration fees proposed are $250 for residential buildings and $750 for commercial buildings. Fines for noncompliance will be $500 per violation.

In addition to the registration program, staff is recommending that the City proactively enforce “stabilization orders;” work with the Bexar Appraisal District regarding methods used to calculate the value of vacant buildings; work with Intergovernmental Relations to reduce the amount of time for tax foreclosures; establish a receivership program for tax foreclosed properties; and establish an outreach educational program to help property owners of vacant buildings through the process.

If approved by City Council, the pilot program will begin January 1, 2015. For more information, contact the Office of Historic Preservation at 215-9274.

- Cherise Bell