Moundsville Repeals Fee For Vacant Structures

Photo by Alan Olson Moundsville Mayor Eugene Saunders discusses an ordinance involving the city’s parks and recreation board during Tuesday’s city council meeting.

MOUNDSVILLE — Owners of vacant buildings in good condition can breathe a sigh of relief, as Moundsville City Council repealed an ordinance fining owners of dormant structures in favor of stiffer penalties for dilapidated buildings.

City leaders have been working on the issue since local business owners approached them earlier this year, asking for relief after being charged increasing fees under the previous ordinance because they were using their building as a warehouse.

During Tuesday’s meeting, council members approved on second reading an ordinance repealing the penalty for vacant buildings, while implementing a gradually increasing fine against property owners who allow dilapidated buildings to remain without improvement. The fines start at $200 for the first year, increasing to $1,600 the fifth year, with an additional $300 for each subsequent year.

The city’s building inspector will determine what buildings are considered dilapidated, and Mayor Eugene Saunders said he believes the change will benefit residents.

“Council felt they were punishing people who had vacant houses, but who were doing work to them and keeping them up to code,” Saunders said. “We’re giving them a reprieve, but we’re going after the dilapidated houses, so they’re the ones who are suffering.”

Vacant buildings were previously defined broadly as any building without permanent inhabitants — which included some detached garages, warehouses and other structures maintained and regularly used.

In other business, council heard first reading Tuesday of an amended ordinance establishing new positions on the parks and recreation board, which council voted to reduce to an advisory board earlier this month. A council liaison position would be created as an additional voting member of the five-person board.

City Attorney Tom White clarified that Saunders, despite being on both the current parks and recreation board and city council, was not to fill that position.

Saunders said the board members have taken the change to an advisory position in stride, despite earlier fears that its members would resign due to their decreased role.

“The ones that I’ve talked to have said they’re going to remain on the board,” he said. “We’re losing one member, but it’s because he’s moving out of Moundsville. Other than that, everyone wants to remain on the board.”

Saunders, however, stood by his earlier remarks that reducing the board’s authority and transferring its duties to City Manager Deanna Hess would be a mistake. He said the board is qualified to manage the city’s parks and sports fields.

“I don’t agree — and that’s my right — with council. I think abolishing the board was a big mistake. … The thing about the advisory board is, they have no authority,” Saunders said. “Those people that are on the board know parks and recreation. They had control over the facilities, and I question that part of the deal. I think council made a mistake.”