The city of Warrenton this week published a draft of proposed rules that would add new maintenance requirements to buildings along Main Street.
City officials said the new rules are intended to improve the appearance of the downtown area and ensure the historical buildings there are kept in good condition.
Broadly speaking, the rules address a number of building features and require that they be kept structurally sound and in good repair.
“We have discussed, as we have talked about revitalizing our downtown, adding more stringent code to hopefully bring the appearance of buildings in the downtown district up to a higher level than what they have been in the past,” City Administrator Terry Thorn explained during an Oct. 1 public meeting.
A draft of the proposed rules is open to public comment for 90 days before it goes through the process of final approval. That means the rules won’t be implemented before mid-January 2020.
The complete draft proposal can be reviewed at Warrenton City Hall.
To ensure the requirements are followed, the Warrenton Building Department will conduct inspections of all buildings on Main Street with 90 days of implementation in 2020. Annual inspections would be conducted thereafter. Visible, extensive deterioration or complaints also could trigger an inspection.
The proposed rules require all exterior wood or metal features to be protected from deterioration or rust by paint or other weather-resistant coating. Peeling or chipped paint would have to be corrected and repainted.
Siding and masonry, as well as the joints around windows and doors, would be required to be kept in a watertight condition. The city also would require exterior walls to be free of any holes or material that is loose or rotting.
According to the proposed rules, violations of the new property maintenance codes would be treated as a misdemeanor violation. The person responsible for the violation would be subject to a fine of up to $200 for the first offense.
Fines would increase for subsequent violations within a 12-month period, scaling up to $450 for the fourth and any further violations. Code violations that endanger the health or welfare of others could also be punished by up to 90 days in jail.
Aldermen seek clarification
Ward 1 Alderman Mike Shilharvey questioned whether the rules would only apply to new businesses that begin operating on Main Street. Thorn replied that every building, including those with currently operating businesses, will be subject to the new code requirements.
Ward 2 Alderman Gary Auch asked if the inspections also should include internal examinations.
“When you have buildings on Main Street that are next to each other, a fire issue in one building can become a fire issue in the other building,” Auch commented. “Eventually we need to address that. I know if I was investing in a building, I would want to make sure the building attached to me is also in as good of condition as what I’m trying to do in my building.”
Thorn said internal maintenance rules could be added to the final draft of the new building code requirements.
Auch also asked what the time frame would be for building owners to comply with the rules once violations are identified.
City Attorney Christopher Graville said any code enforcement tends to allow for some flexibility, while still following a set period of time.
“We always put language in any time frame for our code inspectors, to give them some discretion to work with people who may not have the money to complete the repair, or who may be ill,” Graville said. “We really try to take into consideration their circumstances, but also be consistent with everybody.”