A new abatement ordinance, which gives the city the power to condemn dilapidated properties, was unanimously passed by the Richmond Hill City Council on Tuesday.
"This process calls for the issuance of abatement warnings on any properties," Mayor Richard Davis said. "I’m not sure how long the process takes, but the law has to be followed and we’re going to do everything in accordance with that."
Davis said the city has three potential sites in mind to apply the ordinance to, but said he was choosing not to disclose them at this point in time.
"We intend to clean up a few things around here," he said. "The order gives the property owner a length of time to either improve the building or demolish it, so that’s basically how it works."
Jimmy Hires said the ordinance has been on the table for a while now.
"We were making sure, before we condemned anything, that we got all our legal ducks in a row," he said. "Now we have that with this ordinance."
At the meeting, Floyd Hilliard made the motion to approve the ordinance.
"My first issue is, this really should have been done a long time ago," Hilliard said. "As a small town, we re-do our ordinances as we need them. We don’t have the option, like bigger cities do, of hiring lawyers to go through all our ordinances regularly."
Hilliard said there are two properties that immediately come to mind with the new ordinance."It’s unfortunate that we need this ordinance, but we’ve got some properties around Richmond Hill. One that comes to mind is Miner’s on the corner. And the A1 motel down Hwy. 17, I know we’ve sent the fire department down there to do inspections and they’llgive them a big list of things to fix and they do what they need to get by; things like that," he said. "The bigger we get, the more we’re going to need it."
Sheila Galbreath, who owns the Miner’s property on the corner of Hwy. 17 and 144 with her family, could not be reached for comment. An attempt to reach A1 management was also unsuccessful.
Hilliard said they already had a small ordinance in place, but the city attorney Ray Smith said it didn’t hold any water. This new ordinance has more ‘backbone’ to it legally, Hilliard said.
"This has nothing to do with us condemning land and taking it for city use. It’s just about cleaning up the city and making things more presentable," Hilliard said. "There are a lot of other ordinances we probably need to update as well."
In February, City Manager Mike Melton said the ordinance would give the city the ability to condemn a dilapidated piece of property, tear it down and then file a lien against the property owner for the cost of the demolition.