Failed vacant home ordinance could have residual impact

LEETONIA- An attempt to pass a vacant home ordinance appears to have failed. But it could prompt a much needed overhaul of the current zoning ordinance.

The zoning committee last week apparently killed a proposed vacant home ordinance that Zoning Inspector John Rydarowicz has been working on for over two years. It would establish a program for identifying and registering vacant residential and commercial buildings in order to determine the responsibilities of owners of vacant buildings and structures to comply with zoning codes and speed the rehabilitation of the vacant building. The latest incarnation lowered fees to $50 for the first year, $100 the second and $150 the third on- $50 less than the initial proposal for the first two years and $150 less for the third on.

Instead council members in attendance suggested updating and codifying the current zoning ordinance to help Rydarowicz better manage violations.

Rydarowicz said last month there are 52 homes out of approximately 800 in the village that are vacant, 13 on Columbia Street alone, and that the ordinance would give him another tool to try to decrease those properties.

At last week’s zoning committee meeting he said fees would go toward maintenance of the properties and the hopefully prompt owners into action, be it selling, residing or demolishing.

But council members questioned the definition of vacant home and noted that the fees will not make them go away.

“I’m afraid we’ll get so many regulations that we’ll be tripping over them,” said Sue Buchanan, explaining that she believes the current zoning ordinance adequately deals with the violations. “I don’t see why we need to reinvent the wheel.”

Councilman Kevin Siembida also questioned the proposed ordinance, expressing concern that additional legislation will deter possible investors. He is the one who suggested codifying the current zoning ordinance instead.

According to Mayor Artie Altomare, administrators have considered codifying the ordinance in the past, with the latest estimate at more than $10,000.

He said the project is something that needs done, but warned that it is a major undertaking that requires assistance from an outside source.