Setting a Standard (Telescope)

City Manager makes case for implementing building standards

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By Fred Arnold Belleville Telescope publisher

Belleville City Manager Neal Lewis said Monday it’s about trying to get people to do the right thing.

At this week’s city council meeting Lewis said he is in favor of implementing a vacant building ordinance that would “have some teeth” in making sure structures aren’t allowed to deteriorate.

While he said no specifics have been put in place yet, which would require city council approval, preliminary plans call for a series of fine and penalties that would be assessed to a building’s owner if they failed to meet a minimum maintenance code.

“We want to take a public stance that we would like to take care of our downtown and as a city we want to help,” he said.

“Having a vacant building ordinance is a mechanism-how successful it will be is speculativebut if we have some building owners who are on the fence this might spur them to keep their buildings up.”

The city manager said that Belleville has learned much about being proactive when it comes to letting downtown buildings run down. He pointed to the years long struggle with the Republic Hotel, the Crossroads Floral building and now the old Coast To Coast buildings as an example.

“We certainly don’t want to go through that again,” he said. ‘Right now there are what I would consider seven more buildings in our downtown area that are in serious need of repair.

“Some people are not going to fix their buildings no matter what you do,” Lewis added. “What we want to do with an ordinance is to hopefully get some of these people pointed in the right direction, or make it painful for them to continue letting their buildings fall down.”