The City of Hiawatha is exploring the adoption of a “Vacant Building Ordinance” to address the issue of dilapidated buildings as the City ages.  The purpose is to develop a process to facilitate the removal or repair of existing abandoned buildings maintaining a safe and beautiful community.  The proposed Vacant Building ordinance must be enforceable with benefits and attributes not existing in the current ordinances.

Initiating a program to eliminate these structures through repair or demolition entails the development and passage of an ordinance in line with the Comprehensive Plan. To provide benefit beyond the existing processes the program should include:

  • Purpose statement and defined scope.
  • Specific standards for vacant and abandoned building exterior appearances.
  • Specific standards for vacant and abandoned buildings for interior safety and sanitation.
  • Specific demolition requirements for non-compliance within a specified time frame.
  • Registration fees to recover administrative and inspection costs.
  • Penalty fees to act as a deterrent to maintaining non-compliant vacant buildings. 

A committee has been appointed by the Mayor and City Council to study this issue and to make a recommendation regarding the adoption of an ordinance. A draft ordinance has been developed which is a combination of ordinances from Dubuque IA and Brooklyn Center MN. It is more comprehensive than the Cedar Rapids model and addresses the aesthetics associated with abandoned buildings along with a direct reference to demolition orders. The recommended fee is based on the Dubuque model for covering inspection costs.

Implementation of a vacant building ordinance will put the city in a pro-active position rather than a re-active position.  This program will provide a policy and plan for reducing the blight caused by abandoned properties and provide a framework for immediately addressing severely damaged property due to a natural disaster such as a derecho. The timely elimination of the abandoned and neglected property will prevent the City from having to address the buildings as nuisances which can be costly in human resources, financial resources and extended time frames to achieve corrections. 

The committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday July 27th to review the available research materials and draft documents. The meeting date, time and location is posted on the City web site and materials are available to the public at this link https://www.towncloud.io/go/hiawatha-ia-cd/agendas/264 .  The public is welcome to review the material and to attend the meeting which is to be held at Hiawatha City Hall in the multi-purpose room in the lower level. Feel free to contact the Community Development Director with your comments or questions regarding the draft ordinance. 

When the committee has completed their work; the ordinance recommendation will be considered by Council through the ordinance public hearing process. Notice of the public hearing will be published in advance of Council action as specified in State Statutes.