Changes made to how Louisville deals with abandoned properties a - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Changes made to how Louisville deals with abandoned properties and tall grass

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The grass is starting to grow, and Louisville city council members want to make sure this year's clean-up of lots across the city is more complete.

Some say they’re hopeful that’ll happen despite a growing number of vacant properties.

Tuesday afternoon, Metro Council members received an update from Codes and Regulations. That’s the department that boards up vacant properties and takes care of their lawns.

"We're coming in there when the grass is already, you know, a foot, two-feet tall," said Codes and Regulations Director Robert Kirchdorfer.

As of Jan. 19, the city listed nearly 300 abandoned properties for sale. Metro government owns several of them.

Others are controlled by out-of-state companies that are hard to reach.

"Upkeep problems, maintenance problems, you know, who's gonna cut the grass?" said council woman Cheri Bryant Hamilton.

She represents District 5, which includes the Portland neighborhood, an area with hundreds of vacant sites.

Last year alone, her district had 745 referrals to board up properties and more than 2,000 cleaning referrals that included calls about high grass.

"We told them they need to cut their grass, keep it at 10 feet. If they don't, we're going to do it, and we're gonna send them the bill," Kirchdorfer said.

"It's just growing so fast, you've got a lot of absentee landlords, you've got people who've got abandoned properties,” Hamilton said. “You have vacant property, and the city has to maintain it, but now I'm glad that they're trying to get these bills paid."

Hamilton is optimistic the city will be ahead of the problem this year because of an extra inmate cleaning crew.

Plus, council members approved funding for another mowing cycle to tackle tall grass along state roads.

"It's just not safe," Vicki Aubrey Welch said.

She represents District 13 which includes Fairdale.

"My people are suffering because they're having to walk through those weeds ... and I'm talking 8-foot weeds," Welch said.

Last year, the Codes and Regulations department had a backlog of nearly 400 properties that it didn't get to. Some worry that more will soon be added to the list.

Codes and Regulations says it will also partner with Public Works this year for some of the cleaning to help reduce the referral backlog.

Statement of the Department of Codes & Regulations and the Office of Vacant & Public Property Administration:

The Fischer administration has committed significant resources across multiple city departments in working both to reduce the number of vacant and abandoned properties and to step in where property owners are either unwilling or unable to keep lots clean, boarded and mowed. In the meantime, we realize that keeping the grass cut is really only a short-term response to immediate problems. We are actively pursuing long-term solutions that move beyond basic site maintenance and into aggressive owner-changes that lead to long-term, sustained redevelopment.

To accomplish these goals we worked with the Kentucky General Assembly to pass new legislation that makes it less difficult to foreclose on abandoned properties and transfer ownership. We continue to work with the legislature in the quest for more tools to address the problems associated with vacant and abandoned property. But government alone cannot solve the problem of vacant and abandoned properties. It will take the coordinated action of residents, businesses and property owners. Referrals for VAP foreclosures from private citizens are an essential component of our making headway on these issues. There are currently over 300 VAP Foreclosure cases in progress with the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office.

We know it is frustrating for anyone to live next door to the sight and safety threats of a dilapidated and abandoned property. Statistics reported today by the Department of Codes and Regulations show how serious we are in fighting the problem. We resolved 9,814 boarding and mowing cases in 2015, a 20 percent jump over the previous year. Our 2016 list of properties put on notice that we are taking charge of cleaning them and placing liens to recover our costs is up 46 percent from the 2015 list to 449. We are not sitting back waiting for absentee owners—we are taking action.

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