(Cherry Hill, N.J.) –Township Council on Monday took the first step toward increasing accountability on the part of owners of vacant homes in Cherry Hill, introducing a comprehensive ordinance that would strengthen the Township’s ability to ensure those properties are kept secure and well-maintained.
Under the proposed vacant property ordinance, the owners of such properties – banks, in most instances – would be required to register each vacant property with the Township annually, as well as designate a local representative to serve as a point of contact for property maintenance violations, court summonses, and other correspondence from the Township.
The ordinance also requires that vacant properties be properly secured and kept in compliance with the property maintenance code.
There are currently about 145 homes in the Township that are considered vacant – defined within the ordinance as any residential building that is not currently occupied, cannot be reoccupied without repair or rehabilitation, and is not being actively marketed for sale or rent.
The Township frequently receives complaints about these properties, and seldom learns that a home has become vacant until a problem arises. While all properties are required to comply with the Township’s property maintenance code, bank ownership often makes it difficult to find a local contact to respond to complaints – making enforcement extremely difficult and requiring the Township to allocate an inordinate amount of time and resources trying to bring them into compliance.
“Abandoned and neglected properties are a blight on our neighborhoods and pose safety and health concerns for our residents,” said Mayor Chuck Cahn. “The Township then has to expend taxpayer money to monitor and maintain them. It’s time to hold these owners accountable for the burden they place on Township resources and neighboring residents.”
The ordinance requires a $500 registration fee for the first year, and an increased fee for subsequent renewals, up to $5,000 per home after the second renewal.
“These costs will help offset the unnecessarily disproportionate costs incurred by the Township in dealing with these properties, and hopefully send a message that these homes need to be made a priority,” Cahn said.
Those who fail to annually register their property will be subject to a municipal court fine of $100 to $1,000 a day for each recorded violation.
“This ordinance will strengthen the Township’s ability to deal with vacant properties, and in turn, will protect the quality of life in our neighborhoods,” said Council President David Fleisher. “We’ve heard residents’ concerns about the problems these properties cause and we are responding in a way that will encourage property owners, whether it’s an individual or a financial institution, to do something with these homes – fix them, sell them, or tear them down.”
A public hearing and final vote on this ordinance will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 22, in the N. John Amato Council Chambers (Room 208) at the Cherry Hill Township Municipal Building.
Residents with questions or concerns about this ordinance can contact the Mayor’s Office at (856) 488-7878, or e-mail MayorCahn@chtownship.com.