Receivership Program Debated In Salisbury

SALISBURY — Salisbury continued its efforts to find solutions to an excess of vacant properties by further examining a proposed “receivership” program at Monday’s work session.

“This is an effort to provide neighborhood services with one more tool in their toolbox to deal with vacant properties,” said City Attorney Paul Wilbur of the program.

If passed, the policy would allow court-appointed “receivers” to be put in charge of abandoned or otherwise vacant properties. Those receivers could be either individuals or, more likely organizations, willing to take control of a troubled location. They would then make a decision on whether the site needed to be “rehabilitated, demolished, or put up for sale,” according to Wilbur.

The discussion on a receivership program has been ongoing for weeks and was prompted by the growing number of abandoned properties in the city. At a previous work session, the council was presented with a list of 17 vacant lots. However, Wilbur estimated that the actual number that could qualify for the receivership program range from 25-75.

“We’re trying to identify prime candidates for the program,” he told the council.

Wilbur was questioned about how efficient the program would be, especially if the Circuit Court got involved. He admitted that costs for taking a court action to put a lot into the program could get to the $5,000 range, though that would have to be weighed against the potential money the city could see returned by putting the property back into use instead of having it remain vacant.

“There will always be variables that play into this,” said Wilbur, who added that every other possible route would be attempted before risking high court costs.

“There needs to be some kind of policy,” said Council Vice President Gary Comegys, who informed the assembly that he would want specific criteria set in place for all aspects of a receivership program.

“I’m not willing to sit here and just give it a free hand,” he said. “There has to be a balance between what we invest and what we’ll get out of it.”

Councilmember Terry Cohen echoed the desire to have guidelines in place but also spoke of the benefits.

“I think this concept has possibilities,” she said.

Wilbur went on to explain receivers would be appointed by the court, though the council would be able to make suggestions. Because the issue was brought up in a work session, no official decision was made. The council did make a request for staff to further research the program and return with an update.