Spooky Old Buildings | Urban Living

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Spooky Old Buildings

Posted By on October 12, 2016, 4:00 AM

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Every town has some old building that's tagged with graffiti and either boarded up and in disrepair or about to fall over. The longer the structure stands abandoned, the more the weeds grow around the foundation, windows are broken out and the opportunity for mischief is rife. All towns have building ordinances and regulations, but they don't guarantee ratty old buildings and "haunted" houses are eventually torn down.

Why would a landowner want to keep a building boarded up for years? The insurance must be hell because of the possibility of vandalism. Look at what just happened in downtown Salt Lake City when the old Sizzler restaurant on 400 East and 400 South went up in smoke. My cop friends told me before it sizzled that transients had been climbing in from the roof and using it as a summer home. Unconfirmed rumors have it that the landowners were in the process of selling or had sold the property and it was to be demolished, but that hadn't quite happened before the Aug. 12 fire.

You and I could drive by blighted buildings in the Salt Lake Valley and in small towns across the state and find there's a story behind every rickety old one of them. The most famous one in SLC is in a corner downtown where the owner keeping his ugly buildings as a middle-finger salute to officials until the city lets him put in a pay parking lot. He had applied in 2003 for the permit to pull the walls down but was foiled because ordinances do not allow more parking lots in the Central Business District. As long as he maintains a minimum exterior upkeep and pays his property taxes, the owner can pretty much never do anything with their piece of crap.

Believe it or not, what an owner can do with their private property is a basic Bill of Rights and U.S. Constitution thing. Donald Trump is a fan of "taking" people's properties under a law called eminent domain. In the first Republican presidential debate, he stated, "Without it, you wouldn't have roads, you wouldn't have hospitals, you wouldn't have anything. ... You need eminent domain."

I don't see Salt Lake City taking people's property that's blighted, but I do know that the city council and Mayor Jackie Biskupski want to speed up the process to force landlords to tear down crappy properties. We'll see how successful the push is to pretty up SLC because, as of this writing, there's no city council meeting set to discuss tweaking the rules to get rid of spooky old blighted buildings.

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