~ PVN staff report
LURAY, July 26 — During last week’s work session, the Luray Council discussed ways to give the Town a greater ability to reduce “blighted properties and derelict buildings”, something they say is on the forefront of many residents’ minds.
“This is something that is near and dear to my heart,” Mayor Jerry Dofflemyer said during the July 26 work session. “Ninety-five percent of the calls I get are [related to this], and we have no tools to deal with it.”
However, at this point, the Council has taken no action and not adopted a proposed code amendment, as reported this week by a local media outlet. Town Manager Steve Burke confirmed on Wednesday that no action was taken by council members, despite an article published Wednesday stating they had.
“The discussion about derelict building[s] and blighted properties took place at the July 26 Work Session,” Burke stated. “Council took no action at the meeting, and will continue to discuss proposed Code Amendments to address the issue of blighted properties.”
The code amendments would be to Chapter 26 – Buildings and Building Regulations, of the Town Code, as well as to Article IX of Chapter 78, and they are aimed at establishing regulations on blighted properties and derelict buildings. According to a report from the town manager, State Code 36-49.1:1 and 15.2-907.1&2 allow towns to:
- Establish a program to identify qualifying properties;
- Notify the property owner of the property/building status;
- Require an abatement plan;
- Provide action for the Town to pursue.
The Town defines a derelict building as one that has been vacant for a minimum of six months, is not connected to utilities and which might endanger public health, safety or welfare. The term blighted property includes structures or improvements that endanger public health, safety and welfare because they are dilapidated, deteriorated or violate minimum health and safety standards.
Burke stated that the code amendments would give the Town “a broader sword to wield” with regard to combating run-down properties that are deemed a “blight” on the community.
“I think we’ve got to do something,” the mayor told fellow council members last week. “We’re losing water and sewer fees, taxes, and it bothers the neighbor next door.”
Under the proposal being considered, the owner of a run-down property identified by the Town as a problem, would have “90 days to develop a plan to abate the building or face a $500 civil penalty for each month of non-compliance up to an amount equivalent of the cost of demolition.”
At last week’s work session, the Council viewed photographs of several properties that the mayor had taken and wanted to highlight for the discussion.
“I think it’s long overdue,” Councilman Ligon Webb stated.
The Council is expected to take up the issue again at its next meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 8
In other business at its short July 26 work session, the Luray Council took no actions, but discussed the following issues:
• A request from Ramsey Inc. for a boundary line adjustment, bringing 5.61 acres into Town limits to allow duplexes to be constructed at Fairview Estates. Page County’s Planning and Community Development Department has reviewed the survey plat and has resolved some issues with the applicant, according to a report by the town manager. A public hearing will be scheduled before the Council upon concurrence from the Page County Board of Supervisors.
• Prioritization of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, in general terms of how the Town should appropriate the funds received in the second allocation from the Commonwealth. Department requests from the Police Department, the Parks and Recreation Department, and Water Department were provided for Council’s consideration.