Saratoga to target vacants

— “We’re not concerned about her house,” joked Mathiesen. “Her house is not on the list.”

Mathiesen said once the ordinance is passed, building owners would be required to register their vacant buildings. The list of vacant properties was determined by several different sources, including people calling his office complaining of a vacant building.

“Neighbors are an important resource in terms of complaints about buildings that are deteriorating and vacant,” he said. “If we find that those people have not registered the buildings properly, they’re in big trouble.”

Mathiesen said if a vacant building owner fails to comply with the proposed code, he or she would have to appear in court and be subject to a penalty. He added he would like to see a greater gradual increase in the fee in order to discourage buildings being left unoccupied year after year.

“We want to make it so unprofitable for them to leave a building empty, that they just wouldn’t do that,” he said.

Mathiesen said the ultimate goal is to bring the number of vacant properties down to zero.

“We want turnover, we want buildings redeveloped,” he said. “The buildings that are just sitting and deteriorating and not adding to the character of the neighborhood, that becomes a problem. We do think that something like this will be helpful.”

He said that even though code enforcement officers have some very specific guidelines that they impose on the owners to try to preserve the buildings, there’s only so much the officers can do.

“This goes back to the character of a neighborhood,” said Mathiesen. “The character of a neighborhood is certainly diminished by buildings that are sitting empty.”

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