The city is pondering a new law that aims to help get blighted property renovated by offering owners as assessment freeze so that improvements don’t push up property taxes for five years.
“I’d like to get it on the books as soon as possible and get using it,” said Guy Morin, the city’s building official.
Dale Clift, the city attorney, said the proposed ordinance “would encourage people to purchase” buildings targeted by the city for code and blight problems and to fix them up.
“It gives the developer a break,” Clift said, that should encourage more people to overhaul decrepit housing.
Karen Pio, the president of the Greater Bristol Property Owners Association, said the proposal “can only help Bristol” because the city is not collecting taxes on structures when they are “in a blighted state or abandoned.”
“This is a great ordinance and it will help the city,” said Police Officer Tom Lavigne, a former city councilor who spends most of his time on code enforcement issues.
Lavigne said that that with recent changes in the city’s statutes, code enforcers can find problem properties and take action to crack down on them.
But, he said, the proposal to waive property taxes for five years “makes us come full circle” because it provides a carrot rather than just a stick for officials to use to try to make improvements.
Pio, who owns rental property, said the proposed law would give “more incentive to buy and fix” houses that need a substantial amount of renovation.
Clift said it may serve in many cases to put blighted buildings “back on the tax rolls” instead of sitting empty and racking up unpaid tax bills.
Morin said he hopes that if the City Council adopts the measure, it will help “avoid demolitions” of structures that might be saved if there was something to help owners repair them.
Passing the law, Morin said, would tell people “we want you to invest in our city.”
Officials said that qualifying for an assessment freeze will require property owners to make a substantial investment.
“Not just paint a little polish,” Morin said.
City Councilor Kevin McCauley said that officials have put a lot of work into the proposed statute.
“Obviously, the goal is to raise the bar,” Lavigne said, with the intent of improving the quality of life in town.
City Councilor Craig Minor said that the measure may help “to preserve affordable housing” for residents.
The Ordinance Committee is likely to approve the proposal in October, with city councilors probably enacting it the following month. It may be on the books by December.
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