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Dallas council eyes vacant building law

DALLAS -- The city of Dallas is considering an ordinance that would require owners of vacant downtown commercial buildings to register them with the city and pay an escalating fee each year their properties remain vacant.

March 27, 2013

DALLAS -- The city of Dallas is considering an ordinance that would require owners of vacant downtown commercial buildings to register them with the city and pay an escalating fee each year their properties remain vacant.

Dallas city council logo

The ordinance would create a program intended to spur owners to seek tenants or otherwise establish commercial activity in their downtown buildings.

"That's really the key," said Dallas City Manager Ron Foggin. "There are some people who buy buildings just to own them. That's not what we are interested in."

The proposed ordinance, first reviewed at a Dallas City Council meeting March 18, defines a vacant building to be one that has not been occupied with a permitted commercial use for 90 days or longer. It gives property owners 30 days after a property remains unoccupied to register it with the city and pay an initial fee of $100.

If the property is still vacant for a year after initial registration, the owner is required to pay $250 for the first renewal. Owners would then pay $750 for the second renewal, and $1,000 for each renewal thereafter.

The ordinance would apply only to ground-floor commercial space.

The vacant building ordinance also requires owners to maintain the outward appearance of their buildings and keep roofs in proper condition to avoid water damage to the subject property or those neighboring it.

Additionally, for properties unoccupied for 60 days, there is a requirement that the owner create window displays to enhance the appearance of the building.

Foggin said Dallas City Council members suggested some minor changes to the draft presented March 18, so the ordinance will be placed on Monday's meeting agenda for a first reading.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 187 SE Court St.

Foggin said the ordinance was based on programs a number of cities have established, namely Everett, Wash.

"We looked at a lot of them, really, and picked the best of the best," Foggin said.

Everett's program was created with the goal of discouraging long-term vacancies that could be detrimental to the rest of the downtown business district, according to a city staff report prepared by Dallas Community Development Director Jason Locke.

Recently, the city's Administrative Committee recommended having the city council consider the measure.

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