CitCo et al. to Tackle Abandoned Buildings in Old Capital
Abandoned and infested buildings are a common across the City – they are hot beds for substance abusers and criminal elements. These are just some of the issues that the dilapidated structures present, making them unsafe and hazardous. The City Council says these buildings are going down; thirty-four structures are to be demolished. CitCo has teamed up with the National Fire Service, the Police Department, Human Services and the Ministry of Health to address this growing problem. News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports.
This concrete two- story structure which sits at the corner of Allemby Street and Amara Avenue in Belize City is the first on the list of dilapidated buildings around the City to be demolished. The run-down building has accommodated business establishments over the years – but it has since become abandoned and an eye-sore to the area. Students would play inside and it has even become a hangout for drug users; making it a safety hazard. It was to be demolished today – but that didn’t happen. Councilor Philip Willoughby explains why they are unable to topple this broken-down building. The order only gives allowance for a portion of the structure to be torn down – and this is a building, according to Willoughby, that needs to be leveled because inspection shows that it is in complete disrepair.
Phillip Willoughby, CEMO, Belize City Council
“The order states that the most eastern portion of the building should be demolished. Now, there is no definition as to the length, width or height as such. What we will do again, and you can have a look at the structure in this particular case. Even if we demolish the first five feet of the structure, you will note that upper flat will be compromised and fall like-wise and the other portion will also be compromised. So, that is what we now go back and explain to the court in relation to this matter.”
“Who will ultimately make the decision as to how much of this building will come down?”
“The Police Department and the City Engineer will take the dimensions. If it is the entire structure, then we will take the dimensions of the entire structure. But what wasn’t taken into consideration was the size of what ought to be demolished.”
“Who is going to condemn the building?”
“The court based on what the city engineer and police department say; yes, based on the recommendation.”
“How much are you looking to condemn?”
“They are measuring the entire building.”
“And how much are you looking to condemn?”
“The entire building.”
This soon to be demolition is part of a multi-agency approach to make the City safer, the process has started to knock down derelict structures – and owners are to foot the bill to have their abandoned property taken down.
“The residents and the community have also spurred the talks for us to be much more proactive for the city to lead the charge in relation to the said undertaking. So, on my part, along with NEMO, it is how best we prepare the City and mitigate against these derelict buildings which may be deemed dangerous in times of disaster and we have to mitigate better to protect life and preserve property. Mitigating on the side of caution, we need to step this up and get this done by the start of the hurricane season also. Remember, fire has its concerns. We are in the peak of the fire season. Police have its issues with these derelict vehicles, abandoned lots, derelict buildings. Crime is a hot button issue right now. Ministry of Health has issues with these overgrown lots.”
“Who bears the cost of demolishing these buildings?”
“The property owners; because, again, once it goes through the court and the court says it has to be demolished, then you the property owner will receive such an order for that building or structure to be demolished.”
“And if they don’t follow through with that?”
“Then the city, again, now will be proactive in doing so and then we will tag it on to your property tax.”
And for other owners of properties in disrepair, due process will be followed. Willoughby explains.
“The Revenue Department has attached all the requisite data for us to communicate and reach out to that home owner; that will be done. And upon that being done, if the homeowner or property owner does nothing, that then goes up to the municipal court and after the magistrate has adjudicated on it, based on his ruling then we take action from there and then it goes through a process for it be gazetted and that type of thing. In the first instance, the committee will try to reach out to the homeowner or the property owner.”
“So, once you reach out to them; how much time do they get to like address it; do you give them a time frame before it goes through the courts?”
“We will leave that to the inspector that is on the ground, along with the home owner and the property owner.”
Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.
In a statement issued this evening, the City Council says that “unlike the structure at the corner of Amara Avenue and Allemby Street, none of these property owners have been summoned by the court as yet.” They are in the initial stages of identifying and engaging with property owners without having to resort to legal action unless needed.