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City’s plans to improve neighborhoods continue with 353

June 29, 2018 – Excelsior Springs Code Enforcement began the process of tearing down two buildings on North Main Street Monday, a clean-up effort to help return the neighborhood to what it once was.

The city acquired the property earlier this year. Melinda Mehaffy, economic development director, said they took the step of demolition because the property became a safety issue for the community.

CODE ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS work to tear down two buildings Monday morning. The demolition continues efforts to clean up Excelsior Springs neighborhoods.

“It’s a prime example of what happened when a property is not cared for and it becomes uninhabitable,” she said.

While the city owns some residential properties, Mehaffy said they only acquire property when it becomes a significant issue, one the general population would find difficult to remediate. The city, she said, works with property owners to find ways for the residents to make needed improvement themselves.

Mehaffy said they created the Downtown 353 Incentive Project with the intention of helping property owners make needed improvements. As a tax abatement program, she said the funds used to improve the exterior of residential homes can be deducted off their property taxes. For example, she said if a resident makes $4,000 in exterior improvements and pays $1000 in personal property tax per year, the resident will not pay property taxes for four years.

In order to qualify for the tax abatement, at least $3,500 in improvements must be made to the exterior of a residential home. Said improvements can include, roofs and heating, ventilation and air conditioning units.

A similar program, with different stipulations, exists for commercial properties.

The incentive serves as a way for property owners to begin the needed improvements. Mehaffy said the first step in such a project often becomes the hardest and 353 helps home improvement dollars go further.

City-owned properties may be purchased for renovation. Mehaffy said interested parties can submit proposals and the purchase price is sometimes waived in consideration of the improvement investment needed. However, she said the investment must be made or the new owner could lose the property back to the city.

She said an example of a proposal she would love to receive is one for the old Wyman School building. Many others, she said, would love to see the old Colony Hotel renovated. Mehaffy said the latter project would require a solution for parking issues.

Cory Wartner, code enforcement officer said many misunderstand the purpose of code enforcement. He said the law requires him to issue notices and citations. However, he said many solutions exist that don’t include taking the homeowner to court. Mehaffy said the city would rather work with the homeowner than pursue legal action.

While code enforcement often issues citations that will be remedied after the homeowner takes care of yard work, Wartner said he issued citations for issues including non-residential animals, e.g., chickens, running illegal scrapyards out of residential neighborhoods and a lack of required utilities.

He said even with these issues the city considers demolition as a last resort.

Mehaffy said the city wants to do every in its power to repair properties and preserve history.

“You can be someplace or you can be anyplace,” Mehaffy said. “We want to be someplace because anyplace has the same cookie-cutter houses and the same suburban feel Someplace is unique in the way it looks and the history is what makes Excelsior Springs someplace.”

By Kimberely Blackburn •

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