Salisbury Okays ‘One More Tool’ To Address Blight

SALISBURY – Officials are making progress in cleaning up Salisbury’s neighborhoods by taking charge of blighted property with irresponsible owners.

The Salisbury City Council approved an ordinance in first reading this week to add a chapter to the City Code to create a procedure under which the city may petition the Circuit Court for appointment of a receiver to rehabilitate, demolish or to sell vacant structures or lots.

“This is a receivership ordinance that has been kicked around in work session and discussed over and over again,” City Attorney Mark Tilghman said. “The purpose of this is to put one more tool really in the hands of the city to get rid of properties that are accumulating with large unpaid liens, properties that are unsafe for human habitation, and these are vacant properties, either a vacant structure or a vacant lot, which has basically become a nuisance. This would permit the Neighborhood Services Director to petition, to be appointed receiver for these properties, to take charge of it and to repair and/or sell the property when the time is appropriate.”

The ordinance states, “the City Council desires to reduce incidence of nuisances within the City related to vacant structures arid vacant lots, and desires to reduce the incidence of fire hazards within the City related to vacant structures.”

Pursuant to Salisbury Charter, the City may regulate vacant buildings, and the city believes that the creation of a procedure under which a receiver will be appointed to rehabilitate, demolish, or sell vacant structures or vacant lots is beneficial to promoting public safety and promotes community welfare.

The city will petition to receive the property if the owner of record has failed to make any attempt to maintain the structure in accordance with the property maintenance standards as defined in the City Code, has an unsatisfied court order to abate violations, has outstanding liens on the property, or has been boarded up in excess of six months without having received approval from the housing official.

“I think this is a great tool … I am in full support of it,” Council President Jacob Day said. “My understanding is it is most effective mechanism for the city to help blighted properties transition into the hands of our community housing partners, like Salisbury Neighborhood Housing and Habitat for Humanity of Wicomico County.”

The council voted unanimously to pass the ordinance in first reading.