Bill to create Vacant Property Task Force moves forward

Yet another task force is being proposed to deal with the city’s crumbling infrastructure.

City Council’s Committee on Licenses and Inspections moved forward Thursday with a bill that would create a Vacant Property Task Force comprised of various city agencies to catalog and inspect large vacant commercial properties.

The task force — an idea that arose from the fatal fire of a vacant Kensington warehouse in 2012 that killed two firefighters — would focus on the estimated 400 large vacant and commercial scattered throughout the city.

The group, to be comprised of representatives from the administration, city council, the District Attorney’s Office, PECO, among others, would create an inventory of all the large vacant properties in the city and categorize them by priority. The database would be made available to firefighters and other first responders. The task force would also coordinate joint-team inspection of the large properties and maintain and update the database.

If the task force bill is approved, the 7th council district would serve as the guinea pig. About 11 percent of all large vacant commercial properties are located within that greater Kensignton area,  Councilman Dennis O’Brien, who sponsored the bill, said.

The administration’s legislative team has been working with council staff to flush out the bill to a compromise. The Fire Department and Department of Licenses and Inspections commissioners both testified in support of the bill.

Wednesday’s committee hearing comes nearly a month after Mayor Nutter’s special commission on licenses and inspections released a report suggesting the often criticized LI department be split into two agencies. The report endorsed O’Brien’s vacant property task force bill.

A grand jury also examined LI’s policing of large vacant properties. District Attorney Seth Williams said at the time that he hoped the grand jury report would spur reform at LI, an agency also under scrutiny in the collapse last summer at a demolition site on Market Street where six people were killed. A separate grand jury is probing that tragedy.

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Article source: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/heardinthehall/Bill-to-create-Vacant-Property-Task-Force-moves-forward.html

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