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April 2, 2009


Dana Woodson

New Derelict Structures Law Will Have Positive Impact on Portsmouth

Portsmouth, VA (April 2, 2009) The City of Portsmouth announces that Governor Timothy Kaine has signed into law the Derelict Structures Bills that were introduced in the 2009 General Assembly Session. On March 27, 2009, Governor Kaine signed House Bill 1671 and Senate Bill 1094 which will give localities the authority to require removal and repair of buildings that are declared to be derelict, effective July 1, 2009.

This new law will have a major impact on Portsmouth as the city takes measures to address blight and the overall quality of life issues in many neighborhoods. Much of the subject matter contained in the bills included items and issues addressed in the City of Portsmouth’s 2008 General Assembly Legislative Package. In 2008, Portsmouth requested the Virginia Housing Commission (VHC) to study derelict structures. The results of the study lead to the drafting of the Derelict Structures Bills. The bills address Portsmouth’s concerns as well as those of several other impacted localities in Virginia.

The key provision of these bills is a new section to the Code of Virginia which now defines derelict buildings as buildings, whether or not construction has been completed, that might endanger the public’s health, safety, or welfare and has been (i) vacant, (ii) boarded up in accordance with the Uniform Statewide Building Code, and (iii) not lawfully connected to electric service from a utility service provider or not lawfully connected to any required water or sewer service from a utility service provider for a continuous period in excess of six months.

The new law will further authorize local governments to incentivize owners' timely submission of a plan for demolition or renovation by providing real estate tax abatements and fee refunds. This will simplify tax lien enforcement and blight provisions and encourage action on derelict buildings by adjusting time frames. In addition, it further authorizes localities to establish a tax abatement program to strongly encourage owners of derelict buildings to take action to demolish or renovate the building. The new law will shorten the time for a locality to enforce a lien against property for money the locality spends to clear problems with the property from two years to one year; and simplify the spot blight process.

City staff worked with citizen members of the Neighborhood Quality Task Force for 2 years in order to move this effort forward. “We are pleased that Governor Kaine has signed this important bill into law. Our Neighborhood Quality Task Force members who worked hand-in-hand with city staff are a huge part of this success. Their dedication and true commitment to increasing the quality of life for Portsmouth citizens is outstanding and a true example of community spirit,” said Deputy City Manager Paul Holt.