Bennington passes vacant property ordinance aimed at preventing dilapidation


BENNINGTON — The Select Board passed an ordinance Monday that will require property owners to keep vacant buildings up to snuff and from falling into dilapidation.

The motion to adopt the ordinance passed unanimously among board members present; board member Justin Corcoran was absent.

The ordinance applies to all properties within the town, except owner occupied single unit homes and owner occupied double unit homes. It would apply to an apartment complex, even if the owner lived there.

It also applies to vacant spaces in the town's commercial district.

The ordinance requires property owners to:

• Properly maintain the exterior of the building.

• Promptly correct significant, visible deterioration.

• Keep the property clear of trash, debris, and graffiti.

• Prevent overgrowth of vegetation.

• Make sure the building's structural integrity is not damaged by weather.

• Keep interiors free of standing water and mold.

• Ensure adequate interior and exterior lighting.

• On vacant commercial buildings, install emergency key boxes so emergency personnel can access the building.

• Keep the structures in compliance with various safety and building codes.

• Secure buildings against unauthorized entry.

• Remove or remediate any unsafe condition on the property such as hazardous materials.

• Turn into green space any space where a building has been removed until it can be redeveloped.

Owners must also register their vacant properties with the town. Such registration requires the owner to provide an address, name, and contact information. If they live more than 40 miles from town, they must designate a local agent who can access the space and act on the owner's behalf. They must also provide a list of people allowed in or on the property, certify that they are in compliance with this ordinance, grant the town building inspector permission to inspect the property, and provide the inspector with floor plans and any other information on the property that's requested.

Vacant properties must also bear decals where the public can see them showing who the owner is, who their representatives are, and a phone number with which to contact them.

Owners must also notify the building inspector when the property's vacant status has changed.

The ordinance allows the town to levy fines on owners who do not comply. Civil fines of up to $250 can be applied. It also lets the town take an owner to court to have compliance further enforced.

The ordinance takes effect 60 days after being adopted by the board, during which time it can be appealed.

Monday marked the ordinance's second official reading. Town staff have been working on it for more than a year. The first drafts came together months ago after the town met with property owners, realtors, and others.

— Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115


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