During the April 25, 2023, City Council meeting, a critical discussion unfolded surrounding vacant and blighted properties, as well as the potential implementation of special property tax rates. The meeting, which was driven by the need to encourage property owners to take corrective action, shed light on two main approaches: imposing a special property tax on offending properties or levying fines for non-compliance with City Code.
The central objective was not revenue generation but rather to cover expenses related to these properties and incentivize owners to address the issues. However, both approaches posed a set of common challenges, including the definition of ‘Vacant’ and ‘Blighted,’ identifying and notifying property owners, maintaining a registry of such properties, determining effective monetary incentives, and managing the increased workload for Code Enforcement staff.
Furthermore, considerations included exceptions for hardship cases, such as the death or catastrophic events of property holders, and the establishment of an appeals board. While both tax and fine options were discussed, a consensus seemed to favor concentrating efforts on vacant properties due to the complexities in defining ‘Blighted’ properties.
College Park’s unique status as a college town was also highlighted, influencing the definition of the required vacancy period. Typically, municipalities use 120 days as a benchmark, but College Park’s extended summer break may necessitate a 180-day threshold.
Code Enforcement is actively working on updating the list of potential vacant properties discussed during the meeting. This report underscores the city’s commitment to addressing these property-related challenges effectively.