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Appeals board selected for Akron’s Vacant Building Registration Program

October 30, 2018

Appeals board selected for Akron’s Vacant Building Registration Program

AKRON, Ohio – The city’s Vacant Building Registration Program, created in June, is moving forward with efforts to improve or remove the city’s blighted buildings.

Akron City Council approved five individuals recommended by the city administration to make up a vacant building appeals board. Meanwhile, the Department of Neighborhood Assistance is preparing to send out a second round of letters to owners of vacant buildings in Akron notifying them about the requirements of the new law.

Owners of empty buildings in the city must register within six months of their building becoming vacant, and pay an annual fee based on the building’s size - $300 for buildings less than 10,000 square-feet, and $500 for buildings 10,000 square-feet or larger. The fees collected will go toward building demolition.

Building owners must also designate a local representative; submit a plan for renovating, selling or demolishing the structures; and keep the properties lit and secure.

The intent is to keep empty buildings from negatively affecting neighborhoods’ economic stability by increasing crime and posing safety hazards, the city has said. The registration is hoped to boost the appeal of viable buildings and make it easier to match them with the needs of prospective buyers.

The appeals board will hold hearings and can modify or dismiss enforcement actions if the city’s regulations aren’t followed. Members of the new appeals board are:

Scott Rowland, one-year term. Rowland currently serves on the city’s Board of Zooming Appeals but will leave that post to serve on the vacant building appeals board.Lauren Alexander, two-year term. Alexander, a licensed realtor would fulfill a requirement that one member of the vacant building appeals board represent the Akron Area Board of Realtors.Greg Burk- two-year term. A retired realtor and rubber workerEllis W. Polk, three-year term. Retired from the Akron Fire Department, Polk also served as an Akron fire investigator.Renee M. Nied, three-year term. Neid works at FirstEnergy Corp. as an economic development consultant. She fulfills a requirement that a member of the vacant building appeals board work in the economic development field.

“This is that key ingredient we need to get moving,” said John Valle, director of neighborhood assistance. “We’re hoping to have some quick wins in the next four to six weeks where we can see some vacant commercial buildings finally being torn down.”

According to Valle, members of his department have already sent letters to 305 building owners. Those buildings were identified through a 2015 Western Reserve Land Conservancy Thriving Communities Institute survey, which found that Akron is home to about 500 empty buildings.

A second round of letters will soon go to building owners identified by member of Valle’s department and by citizens. Residents are encouraged to report empty buildings in their neighborhoods using the city’s 311 info line.

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