Grosse Pointe City approves ordinance mandating registration of vacant buildings

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 8, 2023

GROSSE POINTE CITY — Grosse Pointe City has a new ordinance on the books with regard to vacant homes and commercial buildings.

The Grosse Pointe City Council voted unanimously Jan. 23 in favor of creating a vacant buildings ordinance. City Manager Peter Dame said the ordinance is similar to those in neighboring Grosse Pointe Park and Grosse Pointe Woods.

“We don’t currently have a registration process and so there may be buildings or homes that may be deteriorating that we don’t know about,” Dame said.

The ordinance requires owners of homes and commercial buildings that are fully vacant to register those with the city. If a building is unoccupied for more than a year, the ordinance also authorizes the city to inspect the structure to make sure there aren’t any interior problems. In addition, the property owner needs to supply the city with a contact person who lives within 50 miles who can respond to maintenance concerns.

The ordinance calls for an annual registration fee that city officials say will enable them to recover the costs associated with maintaining the vacant buildings registry.

The annual fee wasn’t established in the ordinance, which stated that the fee “shall be set by City Council resolution.”

According to the ordinance, anyone who owns or leases a commercial building or home must register with the city if the building will be “vacant for more than 90 consecutive days.”

City Attorney Chuck Kennedy said many residents who have winter residences in Florida already do “register,” in a way, by contacting the Public Safety Department if they’re going to be gone for three or four months.

Officials say this ordinance is intended to address problems with maintenance and upkeep of empty structures and the challenges city administrators sometimes face when trying to locate contact information for what appears to be a vacant building that’s fallen into disrepair.

City Councilwoman Maureen Juip asked about what was meant in the ordinance by the city accepting reports from anyone who might be walking through a neighborhood and seeing what appeared to be an empty home.

“Can you speak to how that might look in reality in terms of verifying a comment by a passerby?” Juip asked.

Kennedy said the city would accept information from anyone who might contact the city. For example, he said a walker might notice magazines or mail piling up on the front porch of a home.

“I think it’s just a suggestion that we take information from anyone who’s making a statement or report,” Kennedy said.

Dame said the city would follow up with the property owner.

“If we think it’s vacant, we would try and contact the owner to see if it’s vacant,” Dame said.

Public Service Director Peter Randazzo said there are other ways to determine if a property is unoccupied.

“If you’re not using electricity and you’re not using water, you’re probably not using the house,” Randazzo said.