‘Everything but the kitchen sink:’ New rules to govern old buildings

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 2, 2015

In two weeks, the City of Andalusia expects to have a brand new ordinance governing unsafe structures and dangerous buildings.

The council had its first reading of the updated ordinance, which was crafted by Birmingham attorney Ben Goldman of Hand Arendall LLC, who specializes in difficult abatement issues and unsafe structures.

The 23-page ordinance very specifically defines dangerous buildings to include:

• Those whose interior walls or other vertical structure members list, lean or buckle to such an extent that a plumb line passing through the center of gravity falls outside of the middle third of its base.

• Those which show 33 percent or more of damage or deterioration of one of its supporting members, or 50 percent of damage or deterioration of the non-supporting enclosing or outside walls or covering.

It also defines dangerous buildings as those that have been damaged, are unfit for human habitation, contain unsafe equipment, or are an attractive nuisance to children who might play in or on them, among other conditions.

The proposed ordinance requires an appropriate municipal official to notify the owners and mortgage holders of such structures, and gives the owner 45 days to submit a plan for repairs.

The owners may be notified by certified mail, by postings put within three feet of the entrance to the property, or by recording it in the office of the probate judge. The municipal official may also publish a form of the notice in a publication of general circulation in Covington County.

If the owner does not comply with his plan, the repairs or demolition will be accomplished by the city and the cost will be assessed against the property.

If the owner does not respond within 45 days, the city council will hold a public hearing on the findings.

A property owner has 20 days to appeal the council’s decisions to circuit court.

The ordinance will be immediately effective upon its passage, which is expected at the Sept. 15 meeting.

“It covers everything but the kitchen sink,” Councilman Kennith Mount said of the specificities of the ordinance.

“It takes a lot of subjectivity out of the process,” Mayor Earl Johnson said. “IT is very specific about what constitutes unsafe, abatable property.”

Copies of the ordinance are available for review at City Hall.

In other business, the council:

• Granted a sales tax abatement of 1.5 percent of gross sales to Whitney Jones, doing business as Hooks, Inc., based on his investment in reopening the location.

• Abated four pieces of property for violation of the weed ordinance, including three separate lots on North Cotton Street and one on Hwy. 29 north.

• Announced openings on the Historical Preservation Authority and the Industrial Development Board.