MANCHESTER, Ohio – An ordinance to regulate unsafe structures was presented for public comment by the Manchester Village Council on Monday, April 16.
The ordinance, which had its first reading on Monday, states that while the council recognizes that Manchester is a historic community and that many of the buildings within the village have historic and agricultural significance.
“However, the council of the Village of Manchester also recognizes that the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the Village of Manchester require that buildings and other structures be maintained to certain minimum standards,” the ordinance reads.
Therefore, according to the ordinance, its intent is to achieve a balance between those two interests. The council hopes to do that by appointing a building inspector for the village.
According to the ordinance, the building inspector would be a licensed civil engineer appointed by the mayor and approved by the village council for a term of one year. The building inspector does not need to be a resident of the village.
The duties of the building inspector would include enforcing building laws included in the ordinance as well as proposing new rules and laws to council. The inspector will examine buildings reported or suspected to be unsafe. When needed, he/she will also have the authority to issue condemnations and close vacant structures, while informing the property owner of the processes through notices.
In emergency situations, the building inspector would have the authority to vacate unsafe structures due to immediate danger, place temporary safeguards on structures in immediate danger or close streets as needed.
The inspector would also be able to order demolition of buildings deemed so out of repair as to be dangerous, unsafe, unsanitary or otherwise unfit for human habitation. In this case, the property owner would also be given a written notice.
According to the ordinance, failure to comply with a demolition notice under the time prescribed by the inspector would result in the property being demolished by an available public agency. People could appeal the property inspector’s decision within 30 days by writing an appeal that alleges the rules being misinterpreted, that they’re not applicable or that they are being satisfied by other means.
The appeal would be heard by a board that would consist of a minimum of three members who are qualified by experience and training to pass on matters pertaining to property maintenance and who are not employees of the village. They would be appointed by the mayor, approved by the council and serve staggered, overlapping terms, according to the ordinance.
Under the proposed ordinance, it would be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to “erect, construct, alter, extend, repair, fail to repair, remove, fail to remove, demolish, fail to demolish, maintain, fail to maintain, provide, fail to provide, use or occupy, let to another for use or occupancy or permit another person to use or occupy any structure regulated by this ordinance.” In short, any building deemed a hazard must be corrected or demolished depending on the order.
This ordinance comes after two buildings at the intersection of Pike and Second streets remain standing after being burned in December of 2017.
According to the village council, a deal was in place for the buildings to be given over to the Adams County Land Bank and demolished at no cost to the village when property owners decided against the deal.
Village Solicitor Thomas Mayes said that the ordinance is a way to keep buildings safe and structurally sound throughout the village and not just for the two buildings burned in December.
The council and Mayes said the ordinance is in no way complete and the council is seeking public opinion on it since, according to Mayes, the ordinance will affect everyone and has “teeth to it.”
“There are plenty of nuisance ordinances on the books,” said Cody Wagner. “This is a great starting point running into situations such as this. If it does pass we’ve got that underlying pin going into the community at large.”
The council said that a second reading of the ordinance will be had at the village’s next council meeting in May. Public comment on the ordinance was encouraged.