The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 23, 2014

Code breakers: Pulling discussion a good plan with pending legislation

Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Earlier this month, Ward 5 Commissioner Tammy Wilson wanted the Enid City Commission to discuss the merits of an ordinance that would require owners to register with the city when their structure becomes vacant.

A draft copy of an ordinance circulated and became a point of discussion. Enid Metro Association of Realtors received a copy drafted by Enid’s legal staff.

A vacant building registry would allow a municipality to keep a list of which structures, whether business or residential, are empty.

With the goal of toughening laws on vacant, dilapidated structures, Wilson’s intent was to make sure people took care their property.

The draft ordinance, largely based on an Oklahoma City law, called for an annual $200 registration fee for each property.

Tom Andrew, an Enid Realtor and district vice president of Oklahoma Association of Realtors, said he considers that a “fine.”

Andrew opposes any kind of registry, a belief echoed by EMAR President Lisa Weaver.

A code office already is in place for restrictions on a property’s integrity and appearance.

Critics say creating an Enid ordinance would add another level of government on top of existing laws.

And the registry would be subject to open records laws, potentially making vacant properties targets for burglars.

Wilson’s decision to pull the discussion for now is understandable since the Legislature is considering a bill that could affect an Enid ordinance.

State Rep. Steve Martin, R-Bartlesville, has introduced House Bill 2620, which would forbid municipalities from creating such registries.

The Oklahoma Municipal League’s legislative bulletin has flagged HB 2620 as a priority issue to oppose, arguing it takes away local control.

At this time, it’s a good idea to wait and see whether the legislation moves forward.

Everyone wants rising property values for Enid, and we don’t have any easy answer for absentee owners.

The trick is to find a way to punish repeat out-of-state offenders without inadvertently penalizing law-abiding citizens.