Frederick finds further codes necessary


Economic growth and quality of life improvement for residents is of primary importance to every city. Frederick, MD, has turned to vacant property registration to facilitate those desires for prosperity.


According to the Blighted and Vacant Property Ad-Hoc Committee, mortgage foreclosure and property abandonment result in vacant, poorly maintained, and unsecured properties, properties where the ambiguity of owner results in further costs to the city as well as the property owner.


Upwards of 2,500 violations of varying degrees are estimated in the city. Though most residential properties are not considered to be a blight – and such "blight" being considered by the Committee to be relatively low compared to other locations – foreclosed properties were found to be the most likely to be cited for property maintenance violations that could lead to blight, and are considered the most difficult to bring into compliance.


That evaluation resonates with the knowledge that the population of Frederick grew by 25 percent from 2000 to 2010, making for some 28,000 housing units in the city, and that such growth is expected to continue, based on City of Frederick Planning Department/U.S. Census information.


Response of residents has fallen in line with the city's desire to have readily on hand pertinent information for contacting those responsible for a given property if such a property has fallen into a state of light or heavy disrepair.


In a 2011 interview with The Frederick News-Post, Code Enforcement Division Manager Dan Norman said registration fees could help move property owners to find tenants for the empty properties. "It's basically like paying us [the city] rent to keep it vacant."


A 2010 study of various cities with vacant property dilemmas from the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus found an average of $34,000 was spent by local governments to maintain and secure a vacant and/or blighted property. Compounding that cost to the city is the influence of those properties on the value of other structures in a neighborhood, which causes decreases in the value of the surrounding buildings, decreasing the revenue generated from taxes and sales involving those structures to the city.


That damaging domino effect being, that as a property diminishes the value of other properties the city must spend more while taking in less to attempt to accommodate for said dilapidation.


Residents and the city would likely prefer to keep properties inhabited or at least as well-maintained structures, and not have cause for the extreme of condemning a property.


However, The City of Frederick has the right to condemn blighted properties in areas that are generally non-blighted, according to a ruling by the Court of Appeals of Maryland in September 2005, City of Frederick, Maryland v. Allan M. Pickett, No. 74.


In the end, the goal of the city does not appear to be to generate windfall funds for projects, but to allow for the city to cover current costs and encourage property owners to maintain safe and occupied properties.


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