The clock is ticking for owners of vacant or abandoned property in Reynoldsburg to register with the city.

Reynoldsburg City Council unanimously approved legislation May 26 establishing a program to identify and register vacant buildings. The new law requires inspections and imposes an initial fee of $200 per property.

Fees increase by an additional $200 for each year the property remains vacant, to a maximum of $1,000 annually.

The ordinance will go into effect in 90 days, giving the public-service department "time to identify those vacant properties and to give time to those property owners to register," city attorney Chris Shook said.

The registry will be "used as a tool to protect and preserve our neighborhoods from becoming blighted through the lack of adequate maintenance and security concerns at vacant structures," according to the ordinance. "The city of Reynoldsburg believes the presence of vacant buildings can lead to neighborhood decline, create public nuisances, contribute to lower property values and discourage potential buyers from purchasing a home or business in neighborhoods with vacant properties."

Although the exact number of vacant or abandoned properties in the city is unknown, it's "too many," Shook said. They often have exterior code violations and can become havens for such crimes as drug- and human-trafficking, he said.

Under the legislation, a building will be deemed vacant if it is unoccupied for more than 60 days, has disconnected utilities or property-maintenance violations or is unsecured or secured by "other than normal means."

Buildings under foreclosure or those with a mortgage status of abandonment also could be deemed vacant.

Buildings under active construction or renovation or those that have sustained damage from fire or natural disaster are exempt.

Houses or buildings for sale may be exempt for up to a year from the start of the vacancy, if the property owner submits proof of its status to the city, according to the new law.

Tracking the properties and ensuring owners comply with the registration requirements will fall to the city's code-enforcement officers and the public-service department.

The law requires owners to provide the city with a "security plan" to keep trespassers out of such properties. It requires owners to register within 90 days of a property becoming vacant or 30 days after receiving a registration notification from the city.

Under the legislation, failure to register vacant properties is an unclassified misdemeanor. Violations could be filed in mayor's court or in county municipal court.

Cicinatti, Dayton, Marysville and Urbana are among the Ohio communities with similar vacant-property registrations.

Residents who suspect a property is vacant should report it to the service department by calling 614-322-6810 so the city can attempt to trace the title and inspect it for exterior code violations.

The next council meeting will be held virtually, beginning at 6 p.m. June 8. It will be livestreamed on the city's Facebook page.

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