A closer look: Dealing with dangerous buildings

By Steve Waldron

Periodically, the South County News will provide a closer look at some matters dealing with the workings of the Village of Schoolcraft.

There’s been some discussion about the condition of an old building on Grand Street. What is the procedure for dealing with potentially dangerous buildings in the village?

The process is outlined in Article V of Schoolcraft’s Code of Ordinances. It regulates the identification, repair, demolition or removal of buildings considered dangerous to public safety. Article V defines a “dangerous building” as one that has any of the following conditions: structural damage, deterioration, decay, fire hazard, unsanitary conditions, inadequate maintenance, abandonment, or nuisance. It assigns to the Council the legal right to address these conditions and to seek solutions to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents and visitors.

The Dangerous Building code establishes procedures and required timelines for notifying owners of such buildings, conducting inspections and hearings, issuing orders and permits, enforcing compliance, and recovering costs. The overall time to a resolution depends on responsiveness of both the village and property owner as they work together to comply with the ordinance. Here is an outline of this process:

  • Serving of a notice to a building owner that the structure could be a dangerous building; specifying date, time and place of a hearing on whether to deem it a “dangerous building”.
  • The holding of the official hearing.
  • If necessary, appointment of a hearing officer, a person who has established expertise in housing and structural matters, to inspect the property and report findings back to the village council the findings in a scheduled public hearing.
  • If the hearing officer determines the building should either be demolished or made safe, to provide a timeline for the owner to comply with the officer’s order.
  • If, after the expiration of the timeline, the owner fails to comply with the order, the hearing officer will report the owner’s noncompliance to the village and request necessary action to be taken by the village to enforce the order.
  • The village council will notify owner of a hearing within 30 days to show cause why the order should not be enforced. The council will then approve, disapprove, or modify the order within 60 days of this hearing. If the council deems the building should be demolished, the owner must comply with demolition order within 21 days after the date of this hearing.
  • If the owner does not comply with the original or amended order within the timeline issued by the council, the village may take action against the owner for reimbursement for the demolition costs or for the cost of making the building safe.

The ordinance shows that there are several steps and associated timelines involved with working with owners to provide them with opportunities to address concerns regarding the safety of their building. Some steps involve a timeline of 30 or 60 days to provide either party a chance to address concerns or orders of action. It is the goal of the village to partner with building owners and find ways to resolve these issues as expeditiously as possible for all concerned.

For more information, visit the Village of Schoolcraft webpage at villageofschoolcraft.com, scroll down to the “QUICK ACCESS” section and click on “Code of Ordinances”, then enter “dangerous buildings” in the search bar at the top of the page to be taken to Article V. Dangerous Buildings.

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