Luray looking at ordinance to help reduce abandoned buildings

Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 6:27 PM EDT
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LURAY, Va. (WHSV) - The Luray Town Council reviewed an ordinance draft from its town attorney Monday night that would help incentivize the revitalization of abandoned and blighted buildings in the town.

Addressing abandoned buildings in the town was a goal set by the council at the beginning of the year. While Luray doesn’t have a huge number of abandoned and blighted buildings, the town manager said that the ones there are causing some problems for residents.

The ordinance would target buildings that have been vacant for at least six months, have no utility connections, and that may endanger public health or safety. It would require the owners of said properties to develop an action plan to abate issues identified by the town within 90 days or face a $500 civil penalty.

“The intent of the ordinance amendment would be if there was a safety concern or blighted appearance of the property that they would remedy that either by fixing the building or addressing whatever issues on the property that are identified so they’d become less of a detriment to the neighbors and community,” said Luray Town Manager Steve Burke.

The ordinance would also provide benefits to property owners who revitalize abandoned or blighted buildings.

“If the property owners do perform improvements to the property there is a tax credit to offset some of the costs that they incurred. So it’s a stick and carrot,” said Burke. “There’s a financial benefit to the property owner for at least 15 years if they make an improvement. They would receive some credit toward their town tax bill.”

What the revitalized buildings would look like would be completely up to the property owner, as Luray doesn’t have any requirements for these projects.

“The use is not part of the plan it’s simply getting the property and building to the point that whatever use the owner or a renter would want to perform can be done so that it’s a contributing building to the neighborhood or the town,” said Burke.

The ordinance has not been considered by the council yet, Burke said that there are still some details being ironed out by the town’s staff.

“Part of what we’re evaluating right now with our attorney and council is determining what properties can be affected. We also want to develop a score card, if you will, to determine which properties should be prioritized and how the council is best suited to pursue remediation of those properties,” said Burke.

Burke said that staff will present examples of properties that could be affected by the ordinance to the council at its September meeting. He expects the ordinance will be voted on within two to three months.

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