The Vernon Township Council is considering capping the vacant and abandoned home fees at $3,000 in 2021, after the clerk’s office expressed concern about diminishing returns as the homes remain on the list.
The council on April 9, 2018, passed an ordinance that set the fee schedule as $500 for the first year a home is registered on the township’s vacant/abandoned properties list, $1,500 for the second year, and $3,000 for the third year.
The township is about to enter the fourth year, which means a $5,000 fee for properties that have been on the list since 2018.
“This was meant to motivate people to move their houses, which I think has happened,” said business administrator Charles Voelker. “But their thought was by going to $5,000, people may tend to walk away.”
Voelker said he’s talked to people going back to the first year the ordinance went into effect. People have complained that the fee, whatever it amounted to, would take away from their ability to renovate their homes and get them off the vacant homes list, he said.
“I didn’t think that was correct for the first, second, or even the third year, but when we get into an assessment of $5,000, that may be something that’s a valid argument,” Voelker said.
Councilwoman Jean Murphy had said people had come to her saying $3,000 was too high, and so she suggested capping at less than $3,000.
Councilman Andrew Pitsker floated the idea of lowering it further, to $2,500.
However, the township clerk, Marcy Gianattasio, said the fees are mostly going unpaid.
“A lot of the fees are being paid by banks because the home is sitting empty and they’re bank-owned,” she said. “It’s not always a resident or a person. A lot of times, they are banks and companies.”