04-039-O

ORDINANCE NO. __________

AN ORDINANCE AMENDING THE REGULATIONS FOR THE DEMOLITION OF HAZARDOUS BUILDINGS; AMENDING SECTIONS 10-3 AND 10-5 AND REPEALING IN ITS ENTIRETY SECTION 10-7 OF THE DULUTH CITY CODE, 1959, AS AMENDED.

BY COUNCILORS LITTLE AND STEWART:

The city of Duluth does ordain:

Section 1. That Section 10-3 of the Duluth City Code, 1959, as amended, be amended to read as follows:

Sec. 10-3. Demolition procedure.

(a) General. Whenever it comes to the notice of the building official that any building or structure is in a damaged, dilapidated or dangerous condition, it shall be his duty to make an inspection of such building or structure. It shall be unlawful to repair or alter any such building or structure located within Fire Zone No. 1 if, in the opinion of the building official, such building or structure has been damaged or deteriorated from any cause to the extent of more than 50 percent of the value of a similar new building and all such buildings or structures so damaged or deteriorated shall be torn down and removed when so ordered by the building official. It shall be unlawful to repair or alter any building or structure located in Fire Zone No. 3 the city if, in the opinion of the building official based upon information documented in the official file and records, such building or structure has been damaged or deteriorated from any cause to the extent of that the building official's good faith, reasonable estimate of the cost of repairing and restoring the building is more than 60 percent of the value of a similar new building the current fair market value of the building, as shown in the records of the city assessor or as adjusted by the assessor for accuracy, and all such buildings or structures so damaged or deteriorated shall be torn down and removed when so ordered by the building official; provided, however, that the building official, or the building appeal board in cases appealed to it, may allow such a damaged or deteriorated building to be repaired, for good cause shown related to the use, location or unique characteristics of the building, when the owner shows that he or she has dedicated sufficient funds to pay for the repair, have entered into a valid contract to have the repair completed, and will complete all the repair and restoration work within a reasonable time, not to exceed 18 months;
(b) Orders for demolition and assessment of costs. All orders for the demolition of a dangerous, defective or deteriorated building, or for repairs to the same, shall be in writing, signed by the building official, and shall allow not less than 30 days in which to comply with said order. Each order shall identify the structure, state the legal basis of the order, the date of the order, the fair market value of the building, the building official's good faith, reasonable estimate of the cost of repairs, the calculation that forms the basis for the opinion that the damage requires that the building be demolished, the time and procedure for appeal, and other information deemed relevant by the building official. Should any such order not be complied with within the time allowed therefor or, should the structure constitute an immediate threat of bodily harm to the public, or the appeal provided for in Section 10-6 10-5 of this Chapter not be taken, the building official shall, in writing, communicate such information to the city council. The city council may direct the building official to proceed with the work ordered, or to contract to have the work done. In case of the demolition of a building, should the sale of the salvage from such building exceed the cost of the demolition, the balance in excess of the cost shall be paid to the owner of said building or to such other persons as may by law be entitled thereto. A statement of the cost of such work shall be transmitted to the city council which may cause the same to be charged against the land on which the building existed as a municipal lien, which lien shall be recorded with the register of deeds or registrar of titles as a lien against such land, or to be recovered in a suit at law against the owner, or to cause any or all of such costs to be assessed against the property from which such removal takes place. If the city council decides to assess the cost of demolition against the affected property, such assessment shall be made by resolution of the council, and such resolution shall state a time by which such assessment shall be payable, which time shall be not less than 30 days after publication of such resolution and service of notice of the assessment upon the property owner. Notice of such assessment and the time within which it shall be paid, shall be served on the owner of such property in the manner provided in Subsection (c) of this Section below, except that it shall not be necessary to post such notice on the affected property or to publish such notice other than to publish in the regular manner the resolution by which such assessment is made. Delinquent assessments shall be certified to the county auditor of St. Louis County for collection in the same manner as other assessments, pursuant to Section 70 of the Duluth City Charter;
(c) Notice to owner. Except as otherwise provided for in Subsection (b) above, service of all orders provided for in this Section shall be made as follows:
(1) Upon an individual owner, residing within the city of Duluth, by delivering a copy to him personally or by leaving a copy at his usual place of abode with some person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein. If the owner does not reside within the city of Duluth, by sending a copy of such order by registered mail to his last known address, and in addition a copy of such order shall be posted in a conspicuous place in the building to which it relates. Such mailing and posting shall be deemed adequate service. If it should come to the attention of the building official that the owner, as shown by the land records of the register of deeds or the registrar of titles of the county of St. Louis, Minnesota, is deceased, such order shall be sent by registered mail to the known heirs of the deceased owner if the building official is reasonably able to ascertain such heirs. In addition, a copy of the said order shall be posted in a conspicuous place on the building to which it relates, and said order shall be published in the official newspaper of the city of Duluth for one day in each of two consecutive weeks during the period to which the order relates. Such mailing, posting and publication shall be deemed adequate service;
(2) If the owner is confined to a state institution, by serving also the chief executive officer of the institution;
(3) If the owner be an infant under the age of 14 years, by serving a resident guardian, and if he has none, then by serving the person having control of such infant or with whom he resides;
(4) If the owner be a partnership or association, by delivering the order to a member or the managing agent of the partnership or association;
(5) If the owner be a domestic or foreign corporation, by delivering the order to an officer or managing agent. If such corporation be a foreign corporation and has no such agent in the city of Duluth, then service may be made upon any such agent of the corporation within the state.

Section 2. That Section 10-5 of the Duluth City Code, 1959, as amended, be amended to read as follows:

Sec. 10-5. Building appeal board.

(a) There is hereby established a building appeal board, which shall hear and determine appeals under the state building and fire codes and Duluth Housing Code. Such board shall consist of 12 members who shall be appointed by the mayor, subject to the approval of the city council and who shall serve without compensation. The Duluth fire chief and building official shall be appointed as ex officio members of the board. The building official shall act as secretary of the board. One member of the board shall work in the area of finance; one member shall be a registered architect; one member shall be a registered engineer working in the area of building construction design; one member shall be engaged in the business of residential building construction; one member shall be engaged in the business of commercial building construction; one member shall work in the area of building materials supply; one member shall be a member of a building trade union; one member shall be a realtor or real estate manager; and two members shall be appointed from the general citizenry of the city of Duluth. Of the first persons appointed for membership on the board, four shall be appointed for three years, four shall be appointed for two years, and three shall be appointed for one year. Thereafter, all appointments shall be for a term of three years, except that vacancies caused by death, resignation or otherwise may be filled for the remaining unexpired term;
(b) Within 30 days after the initial appointments, the board shall meet and elect a chairman and vice chairman. Thereafter, the board shall meet at stated intervals fixed by resolution of the board, or at the call of the chairman or of any three members of the board. The board may adopt reasonable rules and regulations for conducting its investigations and hearings;
(c) The board shall have jurisdiction to perform the following functions:
(1) To hear appeals from decisions made by the building official interpreting the State Building Code where such interpretation involves points not clearly covered by said Code, the appropriateness of alternate methods of construction, or the appropriateness of the use of alternate materials;
(2) To hear appeals from decisions made by the building official in enforcing or interpreting the Duluth Housing Code, Chapter 29A, of the Duluth City Code;
(3) To hear appeals from decisions of the fire chief which arise under Chapter 21 of the Duluth City Code;
(4) To hear appeals from an order of the building official which applies Article II or III of Chapter 10 of Duluth City Code, as amended, or its successor, which includes orders for demolition or other decisions under Article II or III of Chapter 10, Duluth City Code;
(d) Any person who wishes to appeal a decision of the building official or fire marshal shall serve written notice of appeal upon the building official within 15 days after receiving notice of such decision, which appeal shall be accompanied by a fee of $120. The notice of appeal shall contain a complete statement of the matter in controversy and relief requested. If the appeal is from a refusal to grant a permit authorizing the use of an alternate material or method of construction, the notice of appeal shall contain a guarantee of payment of all expenses of any tests made or ordered by the board. If the appeal is from a decision of the fire chief, the building official shall forward a copy of the notice of appeal to the fire chief. The building official shall notify the appellant of the time and place of the hearing. If the appellant withdraws his or her appeal in writing prior to the date and time set therefore, the building official shall refund the aforesaid fee. At the hearing, the board shall hear all relevant evidence and arguments. After due deliberation, the board shall render its decision in writing and notify the appellant of its decision by certified mail or personal service. Decisions involving the State Building Code shall be mailed to the state building inspector within 15 days after they are rendered. The building official shall keep an indexed record of decisions of the board. If the board grants an appellant an extension of time to do an act, then, at the next meeting after expiration of that period of time, the matter shall be set on the meeting agenda for the board's review and action;
(e) In making its decisions, the board shall use the following criteria:
(1) Building code appeals. The board shall approve alternate materials or methods of construction only if reasonable proof is presented that such material or method is at least equivalent to State Building Code standards in quality, strength, effectiveness, durability, fire resistance and safety;
(2) Housing code appeals and appeals of demolition or other orders. The board may remedy any error it has found the building official has made in the interpretation of the housing code or of Article II or III of Chapter 10, Duluth City Code, or their successors. The board may also grant such relief as it deems reasonable from strict compliance with each provision of the housing code these parts of Duluth City Code, but no relief shall be granted unless it is found that:
(A) There is substantial compliance with the provisions of the housing code;
(B) No detriment to public health or safety will result from granting such relief;
(C) The intent of the housing code is not compromised;
(D) The relief granted will not result in increased cost expense to the city;
(3) Variances from the minimum requirements of the fire code may be recommended to the state fire marshal only if:
(A) There is substantial compliance with the provisions of the fire code;
(B) The safety of the building occupants and general public will not be jeopardized;
(C) Undue hardship will result to the applicant if relief is not granted;
(f) Any person aggrieved by a decision of the board which involves a housing code matter, except a demolition matter under Section 10-3 of this Code, or its successor, may appeal such decision to the city council by filing a notice of appeal with the building official within 15 days after receiving notice of the board's decision. Such notice of appeal shall be addressed to the city council and shall state the grounds upon which the appeal is taken. The filing of a notice of appeal shall stay all proceedings in furtherance of the decision appealed from. The building official shall file all appeal notices with the city council. The city council shall hear the appeal within 30 days after the notice of appeal is filed and shall affirm, modify or reverse the decision of the board. The board's decision on demolition orders or any matter arising under Section 10-3 of this Code, or its successor, shall be appealed to the courts in the manner set out in law and the rules of civil procedure.

Section 3. That Section 10-7 of the Duluth City Code, 1959, as amended, be repealed in its entirety.

Section 4. That this ordinance shall take effect and be in force 30 days from and after its passage and publication.


STATEMENT OF PURPOSE:  Section 1 eliminates disparate treatment between Fire Zone One (Downtown) and the rest of the city. This was created decades ago when the city wanted to clear old wooden buildings from Downtown. Circumstances are changed, and the disparity in treatment serves no purpose. Section 1 also specifies a procedure and the content of forms to be used to order the demolition of buildings. It follows the standards of the existing ordinance, but changes the standard to 60 percent of fair market value as shown on the assessor's records (the current ordinance is 60 percent of an estimate of the value of a new building), but is specific as to procedure, and requires records to be kept. It also corrects a reference to 10-6 which was repealed in 1980. The appeal procedure referred to will be 10-5, which is the procedure the city has been using since 1980.

Section 2 provides that the building appeals board will hear appeals of demolition orders. This is actually what has been happening for years. An appeal standard is added, stating that any relief granted from strict compliance cannot result in added cost to the city. It also provides that if a time extension is granted, the matter automatically returns to agenda at the end of the extension.

Section 3 repeals the fire zones. As stated above, these were created long ago to facilitate removal of old wood frame buildings from downtown. The need no longer exists. State and national codes have abandoned the fire zone provisions.