Springfield’s Vacant Property Registry: ‘It’s going to be a tough road’

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Springfield's Vacant Property Registry: What to know

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The City of Springfield’s Vacant Property Registry is in full effect with some property owners receiving fines.

“This is the first wave,” City of Springfield Code Enforcement Officer Jeremy Leist said. He has sent fines to 12 property owners.

The registry went into effect on Jan. 1 - requiring vacant property owners to register their property with the city if it has been empty for 90 days. The owner has 30 days from the official vacant status date to register.

The registration fee is $100 yearly for each vacant property. An owner who does not register within the specified time will be fined $20, Leist said.

City of Springfield Planning, Zoning and Code Enforcement Administrator Stephen Thompson said that only four individuals have registered with the city. Overall, 44 vacant properties are registered with 41 of those properties registered as part of a foreclosure suit.

The city is using a company called PROCHAMPS to identify and register vacant properties.

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Thompson said that PROCHAMPS has identified 1,697 vacant properties, but has only found 733 identifiable owners.

“The remainder of those properties in most cases has been foreclosed on for lack of property tax payment or the owner passed away sometime ago and there was no estate set up for the property - so we can’t identify an owner to contact,” Thompson said.

Notices were sent to the 733 identifiable property owners about two weeks ago, Thompson said.

Leist said that the coronavirus pandemic has slowed the process of notifying property owners, so they are being lenient.

For the properties where an owner has not been identified, Thompson said: “That’s still a process. I think we have to come up with some creative ways to try to figure out who is actually responsible for these.”

Leist sai that “it’s going to be a tough road” to identify the owners of 964 properties.

The registry was designed not only to assist in community development, but to protect first responders.

“The whole idea of this was to protect first responders,” Thompson said. “If we know a property is vacant and no one is currently living there, we aren’t risking first responders lives by unnecessarily going in to these structures.”

Springfield Assistant Fire Chief Matthew Smith said there has been 43 structure fires this year with 13 of the structures being vacant properties.

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“About 1/3 of all of our structure fires are vacants,” Smith said. “It is a significant number and most of them are incendiary because they don’t have any electric, they don’t have any gas, they don’t have anything going in there.”

An incendiary fire is a fire that was set by a human being, Smith explained.

He added that the cause of some of the fires are classified as undetermined, but several are arsons.

“To my knowledge, no one has been arrested,” Smith said. “We have not been able to locate the people that have matched up to the fire.”

Last week, there were two vacant property fires that were classified as undetermined.

Leist said those properties were not in the registry and there was no contact information for the owners.

“With these two fires we have accessed them both, we’re not going to deem them emergencies,” Leist said. “They are going to get demolition cases on them.”

This means the owners will get the chance to repair or demolish the structure.

Smith said the registry will allow the fire department to work with the property owners to get their properties “properly secured and properly maintained, so they’re not falling down.”

Leist said he is planning to set up a computer to help property owners register.

To register vacant properties, property owners should visit www.prochamps.com.

Facts & Figures

1,697 vacant properties

733 identifiable property owners

44 vacant properties registered

12 property owners fined

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