Le Mars City Council advances bill to require permit for vacant buildings

Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 5:52 PM CDT
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - The Le Mars City Council advanced an ordinance Tuesday that would require any property owner with a vacant building in downtown the Le Mars Mars’ Historic District to obtain a permit.

The city council members say this is needed to protect both safety and the property values of other historic buildings. But some are calling it a government overreach.

John Meis, a Plymouth County Supervisor, is one of the opponents. He argues the proposed ordinance is unnecessary because the city government already has an ordinance allowing code enforcement to enter buildings.

But City Council Member Clark Goodchild says the proposed ordinance isn’t just about entering vacant buildings, it’s also about identifying their owners, who are sometimes businesses from out of state.

“I’m in favor of that because if there’s a fire if there’s an emergency is someone (going to come)? The other thing that Rob didn’t mention that I’m just gonna fill in the blank too is if one of these buildings is destroyed ... it’ll never be replaced,” said Goodchild.

Rob is Le Mars Mayor Rob Bixenman. He’ll have to sign or veto the ordinance if it ultimately passes the council two more times. About six buildings currently qualify as vacant, and the mayor says the city is trying to stop the spread.

One proponent said his daughter tripped on a brick from a dilapidated building, so safety is also a concern.

“It gives us an opportunity to get in and inspect the buildings, make sure that they’re not dealing with a leaky roof, or infested with rodents, or having a wall that’s, that’s coming down,” said Bixenman.

If passed, the vacant building permit will cost $50. But failure to register could trigger a fine of more than $700, which increases to $1,000 for further infractions.

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