Recently, the front of a structure collapsed. Since August of 2018, the Town of Kingstree Code Enforcement Department has been coordinating with the owners of the structure to make it safe.
The difficulties to eliminating blight in Kingstree is not unique. Jurisdictions around the state are experiencing similar problems with blight. Some have attempted the registration of each vacant property, and the owner pays a fee each year the year property is vacant. When an owner fails to maintain its property, the safety and fire hazards increases. The town does not have the equipment to remove the blight. Therefore, contractors are hired to clear that property. The cost of having this work done is passed onto the tax payers.
The Municipal of South Carolina (MASC) states that dilapidated structures pose a public safety threat in municipalities of all sizes. Cities and towns need additional tools to clear blight to ensure the safety of residents and visitors and to spur economic development opportunities for business owners. The MASC staff met with city and county officials and a bipartisan group of legislators to gauge interest in changing the law to require counties to collect city code enforcement liens on behalf of cities.
The MASC have been working with state senators and representatives to strengthen the South Carolina Code of Law Section 6-38-10, Dilapidated Buildings Act. The MASC also partnered with the Building Officials Association of South Carolina to offer training to municipal officials regarding options available to abate nuisance properties that pose a threat to public safety.
The Town of Kingstree is obligated to ensure the safety, health, and general welfare of its citizens visitors. Each building owner or tenant is obligated to ensure that their property is kept safe and clean. A property owner or tenant who does not maintain a safe and clean property is in violation of the Town of Kingstree Code of Ordinance and the International Code Council Property Maintenance Code. The violator may receive a fine of $500 each day that the violation is documented. The owner or tenant will be notified of the violation via certified mail, personal visit, public notice, or citation. The violator is given 10 days to correct or remove the violation. The owner/tenant has a right to due process. If the violation is not corrected, the town may correct the violation. The cost is then billed to the local property owner. A cost that is problematic, and very seldom recouped from the violator.
The Town of Kingstree Building Codes and Fire Department are authorized by the town council to enforce the International, State, and local Building and Fire Codes and Ordinances. Since 2013, the town has spent over $302,943.14 clearing overgrown lots, removing abandon structures, and removing trash and debris. In its efforts to rid the community of blights. This cost does not include staff hours, legal fees, efforts made to contact and locate the owners, or other administrative costs related to the violations.
Notification and location of owners can be difficult. The property ownership may be listed as having heirs, in an estate, being in foreclosure, in probate, property taxes unpaid, or County Forfeit Land Commission. Owners may reside outside the state or outside the country. The Town of Kingstree has hired processors in other states to serve notices to an owner. The town, also, receives assistance from the Williamsburg County Sheriff’s Office to make contact with those owners who resides outside of the town. These efforts, many times, results no contact, nor cooperation from the owners.
The Town of Kingstree continues to expand its Anti-Blight campaign. You may report blights by calling (843) 355-7484.