Nick McWilliams reporting – With over two dozen properties with vacant homes, the city of Dover hopes to persuade owners to sell to bring new growth.

Building and Zoning Codes Administrator John McFadden says that his office took inventory of vacant homes after Ohio established the Building Demolition and Site Revitalization Program, which allocated funds to be used for the removal of residential properties that site empty to make room for new development.

By his count, around 28 homes have their utilities shut off or sit empty, with around five former businesses out of commission with no future in sight.

Instead of seeing buildings fall into decay and disrepair, McFadden proposed taking action by requiring a registration and fee each year for vacant property owners, hopefully spurring them to move the plot to a buyer or to build a new prospect.

“That is to try and put, maybe, a carrot and stick method, to try and motivate people to not just sit on properties and let them be vacant. To possibly motivate them to sell, or to find somebody who would sell it for them, or occupy it to a renter.”

The registration for homes would be on an escalating sale, starting at $150 in the first year, and doubling on the previous total each year until after the fifth year, staying at $2,500 annual from there on out.

For commercial properties, the rate starts at $300 and follows the same doubling scale, maxing out at $4,800. Fees generated from the registration would go to the Downtown Façade Program for further development.

McFadden says that issues arise when they cannot find a property owner to contact when major problems occur, or even down to the simply mowing the grass.

Exemptions exist for the registration process, which can be handled on a case-by-case basis.

“If a house is under current construction, if a natural disaster or fire happens, if you have a family member who is an owner but they are in a nursing home and you are the power of attorney or the trust, if you are considered a Snowbird, and you leave in November and come back in March, that is also an exemption.”

Interim Mayor Shane Gunnoe says that the structure of their plan mirrors that of similar cities, and can also incentivize banks to work quickly on transactions to clear up red tape on properties.

McFadden also clarified that an external inspection will be required twice a year to verify properties fall within the parameters of city ordinances if they are left vacant.

Council ultimately passed the measure unanimously, and all vacant property owners are to be notified of the change before it takes effect in 2023.

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