Victoria looks to clean up blighted properties

Published 10:52 am Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Town of Victoria is looking to take action to clean up the blighted properties dotting the town limits.

Blighted property has been an issue in the Town of Victoria and many surrounding towns and communities for years. A blighted property is defined as an individual, commercial, industrial, or residential structure or improvement that endangers the public’s health, safety, or welfare because the structure or improvement is dilapidated, deteriorated or violates minimum health and safety standards. Rat and rodent infestation caused by the state of disrepair is also taken into consideration for determining if a property is blighted.

Other considerations in determining if a property is blighted are failure to take adequate precautions to prevent the use or access to the property by trespassers, potential attractive nuisance to children and fire hazards. Substantial dilapidation of buildings is also considered in the process. Conditions of substantial dilapidation are evidenced by either:

• Collapse of either interior or exterior structural elements such as floors, walls, roofs, porches, decks, and similar appendages which do not pose a danger to the public; or

• Removal or rotting of exterior siding, roofing, or sheathing exposing structural members to the weather, or

• Collapse, removal, or rot of critical elements of the structure.

Victoria Town Council approved a policy at its March 10, 2020 meeting to use authority granted in VA Code §36-49.1:1 to address blighted property throughout the town. VA Code gives localities or authorities the power to acquire, repair, manage or dispose of any blighted property.

The policy outlines the steps in the process of using spot blight abatement. Initially, a preliminary determination is made that a property is blighted. The property owners of record, the address that the real estate tax bill is sent to, are notified of the blighted property and the need for it to be corrected. The owner or owners of record will have 30 days to submit a plan in writing to address the blight in a reasonable period of time, usually around 90 days.

If the owner or owners of record fail to respond with a written blight abatement plan a public hearing will be requested and advertised as required by the Code of VA. The owner or owners of record will be notified of this public hearing by certified mail that is sent to the address on record. Following the public hearing, the town council will consider an ordinance declaring the property a nuisance and a blight abatement plan. If adopted, the ordinance and abatement plan require the owner to take specific steps to abate the nuisance by a specific date. If the owner fails to do so, the town will enter the property and abate the nuisance as described in the adopted plan.

If the owner fails to mitigate the blight and the town takes action to repair or eliminate the blight the owner or owners of record will be billed for the cost of the abatement.

If the bill is not paid within 30 days, the treasurer will begin steps to obtain a lien against the property for the cost of the abatement. If the property is assessed at a value less than $100,000 and the lien remains unpaid on December 31 after the first anniversary of the date on which the lien was recorded then the treasurer may sell the property to collect the lien.

The Town of Victoria hopes that the use of this process will eliminate some of the blighted properties in the community and may also encourage other property owners to make repairs to their properties. If there are any questions regarding this policy please contact the town office.