Unsafe structure ordinance OK’d

Published 12:24 am Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Andalusia City Council last night unanimously approved an ordinance governing unsafe structures and dangerous buildings and designed to take subjectivity out of the abatement process.

The ordinance becomes official once published, and Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson said the city’s abatement officers will begin enforcing it right away.

“The abatement folks will decide where to start,” he said. “But the obvious focus is downtown, and spreading out from there,”

The city sought input from Birmingham attorney Ben Goldman of Hand Arendall LLC, who specializes in difficult abatement issues and unsafe structures, in updating its ordinance.

The 23-page document 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.