North Charleston could start taking a closer look at eyesore business properties under new regulations city officials are considering.
“There are a lot of buildings out there that are just sitting there and becoming a nuisance, and they (the owners) aren’t doing anything to maintain those buildings,” said the city’s Chief Building Official Darbis Briggman. “They are going to continue to deteriorate, and we want to try and head that off.”
If a residential property is dilapidated, the city can send code enforcement officers out to take a look, and they can refer problems to North Charleston’s Public Safety and Housing Committee for action. But that authority doesn’t extend to commercial properties — yet.
“We can (currently) write basic tickets, but if they don’t pay them, we don’t really have a forum to require them to fix it,” said Kriston Nealy, an attorney for the city.
The proposed ordinance would “level the playing field,” she said.
Dilapidated or abandoned buildings, the ordinance says, can become locations for everything from “homeless encampments” and prostitution to shelters for “poisonous snakes and spiders, raccoons, etc.” which may carry diseases such as rabies.
City code enforcement officers can currently issue tickets only in limited circumstances.
“We can issue a ticket for things like trash,” said Code Enforcement Director Angela McJunkin.
The new ordinance, which has received preliminary approval from City Council, would allow for declaring a commercial building a public nuisance and scheduling a hearing.
“We’re not trying to take anybody’s property,” said Briggman. “We do want to address those that are deteriorating.”
“This ordinance will address those buildings that are borderline,” he said. “Just like in court, I still have to prove my case, but this gives the owners of the property a chance to go before the committee.”