Vacant Building Program rolls out in Aberdeen

The city of Aberdeen’s Vacant Building Program is now in effect throughout downtown Aberdeen.

The problems are not hard to spot, not even for the casual viewer. One building, 115 W. Heron, has no roof. Other buildings, such as the historic Morck Hotel, have broken exterior windows, graffiti and other issues. The program would require property owners — “responsible persons” — to maintain the structures they own.

Josh Padgett, building inspector for Aberdeen’s property maintenance division, said having the program is a positive new step for the city. The program started Sunday.

“Personally, I would love for people to be excited about taking the first steps in helping to restore the downtown area,” Padgett said. “It really is going to be a community effort and with the more people that care about their community, the more that we can get accomplished.”

Padgett said the hope he has is to “build relationships” with the property owners.

“We know this is not going to be an overnight success,” Padgett said. “Our primary objective is to have open communications, create a plan and set goals that can be reached.”

The initial goal for the program is to repair and maintain vacant buildings through Aberdeen’s downtown area.

“We want to preserve what buildings we have left, so that the city is not forced into abatements unnecessarily,” Padgett said. “Abatements leave vacant holes in blocks and cost the taxpayers of Aberdeen a tremendous amount of money.”

The program itself is to convince people who own vacant buildings downtown to maintain their buildings on the outside and the inside.


Each vacant building, for a year or less — $100

Each vacant building for at least one but less than two years — $150

Each vacant building for at least two years but less than three years — $200

Each vacant building for at least three years and for each year thereafter until the building is occupied — $250

Monthly verification inspections to ensure the building is being maintained — $100

The fees would be deposited into the Good Neighbors Revolving Loan Fund for use back in the community as appropriate, according to Aberdeen’s City Council President Kati Kachman, who spoke about the fees during the city council’s discussion about the program’s fees back in August, when the council approved the fees.

“And then on the proposed fees that are outlined, all that we are doing is just clarifying that the fees are annually, so it’s $100 annual fee for each building that has been vacant. And then on rule No. 5, it’s a $100 monthly charge for that inspection to verify the building is being maintained in a secure and clean manner.”

Ruth Clemens, Aberdeen’s city administrator, addressed the fees. Community members have raised the issue of why the fees are “too low.”

“At this point, the fees are low because they are meant to encourage compliance,” Clemens said. “Some property owners have not invested in making repairs to their buildings for one reason or another, including financial reasons. We want to make sure they understand that we are trying to work with them and what our goals are as a city. If approved, property owners also get access to the Good Neighbor Revolving Fund, which is a low-interest loan by the city to help fund building improvements.”

As the program rolls out, Padgett explained how long he expects it to take the program to take hold.

“The initial goal will take time,” Padgett said. “This isn’t something that happened overnight, it has been happening for many years. We will be working with both local and absentee property owners to first do assessments of the buildings. Once we have a grasp of what we are looking at, we can work with the property owners to develop a plan for repairing and maintaining the structures.”

Padgett explained how the fees can help the community’s future.

“The mayor and city council agreed to have any fees assessed through this program go directly into the Good Neighbors Revolving Loan Fund so that property owners have the ability to apply for low-interest loans to make necessary repairs,” Padgett said.

As with any program, the city expects to see challenges regarding its new program.

“I think the biggest challenge will be the financial aspect of what it’s going to take to get some of these buildings into compliance,” Padgett said. “Building rapport with property owners and having a basic understanding will be one of the first steps.”

According to Padgett, the city has received “several comments” from local business owners and other community members.

“Most are looking forward to seeing all these vacant buildings potentially becoming a functioning business/building again,” Padgett said. “People are generally excited of the possibilities of driving through town or walking the sidewalks of downtown and seeing clean, non-boarded up buildings. Residents who are born and raised in Aberdeen talk about the memories they have in some of these buildings and are hoping to be able to see their memories come back to life.”

Padgett detailed what he sees as success.

“I want to see new business and vitality brought back into the downtown,” Padgett said. “Hopefully someday see something that my kids and grandkids will be able to be excited about.”

Padgett said residents shouldn’t see change overnight.

“We will get there, but government is not able to move fast,” Padgett said about the challenges in implementing the program. “There will be plenty of questions and some fear, but I hope that people will reach out to the city. We want to work with people to build a strong and livable downtown.”

Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at

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