ICON Celebrates First Birthday

Posted on 03/30/11 No Comments

ICON celebrated its first birthday at the March 28th meeting by announcing its proposed program to eliminate problem properties in the older neighborhoods. The coalition of Inner City Older Neighborhoods first met March 2010 with 19 representatives from 12 neighborhoods. Since the first meeting 71 individuals; neighborhood representatives, city and county officials, aldermen, and candidates for city administration have participated in the monthly ICON meetings.

At the first meeting neighborhood representatives identified nine of their most pressing common problems. Five of the top seven were associated with owners of rental property, those you live in those properties, and the structures themselves. An Ordinance Review Committee was selected to review Springfield’s current ordinances, those of neighboring communities (Peoria, Decatur, Rock Island, Bloomington), and the policies and procedures of the current administration. From this review a 3 phase, 7 step process has been proposed to eliminate the problem properties.

Problem properties are identified as those that

1) have 2 or more code violations for more than 60 days old

2) are unoccupied, unsafe and open to trespass

3) are a visual blight on the neighborhood

4) have two or more nuisance abatement violations within a 60 day period

5) lower the property value of neighboring property

The 3 phases to eliminate these problems start with the registration of all rental property. No registration fee will be charged, but the owner or a designated manager who resides in Sangamon County, if the owner does reside in Sangamon County, must file the appropriate paperwork before a predetermined date.

The second phase emphasizes specific time limits on the correction of external and internal code violations. Fines will be imposed starting at $200 per code violation and increasing by an additional $200 for each allocated 60 day work period. Property with violations not corrected within 180 days (3 sixty-day work periods) will be declared uninhabitable and boarded. Properties may also be boarded if there are six or more violations at any one time. When properties are boarded, boarded property registration fees of $2,000 for the first year, $4,000 for a second year, and $6,000 for the third will be levied against the owner. At the end of the second year of being boarded, problem properties will also be down-zoned to R1 for single family use only.

If, at the end of the third year, the violations have not been corrected, the city will initiate foreclosure proceedings. Foreclosure may be started before the end of the third year if city liens reach an amount equal to 70% of the assessed value of the property. Property secured by the city will be given to not-for-profit groups having the capability of renovating the property or demolishing and infilling with new construction.

At any time throughout this process, if the property owner corrects the violations and clears all financial obligations to the city, the property will be reinstated for rental use. A mandatory inspection program will be established to confirm property in violation of codes for more than 60 days meet code standards on a regular basis after the violations have been corrected.

Following a discussion of the proposed recommendations, members reviewed the positions taken by the aldermanic candidates at the March 3rd forum hosted by ICON, DSI, MBBA, and IPA. Refer to the voting positions of each candidate regarding the key issues in the recommendations (PDF download) on our Springfield Election 2011 page under the Political Power tab along with surveys, radio and print interviews, and candidate endorsements from other organizations.