Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today introduced an agreement to the Cook County Board of Commissioners between the County and the Village of Oak Lawn to participate in the County’s Vacant Building Ordinance.
The Intergovernmental Agreement is the result of the efforts undertaken by the Bureau of Economic Development, the Department of Building and Zoning, the Department of Administrative Hearings and representatives of the Village of Oak Lawn. Under the agreement, the Cook County Department of Building and Zoning will work with Oak Lawn employees to determine if buildings within the village are vacant and have not been registered with the County. Building and Zoning will then institute the administrative hearing process where necessary. The stakeholders will also work closely together to register vacant buildings with the County.
The Vacant Building Ordinance will work alongside the Village of Oak Lawn’s municipal property maintenance ordinances, and allow the village to hold property owners and mortgagees accountable by making them subject to fines for failing to register their properties. Oak Lawn will also be able to receive fifty percent of all registration fees, fines and penalties collected by the County in conjunction with the Vacant Building Ordinance.
“This is an important tool for municipalities, and we are thrilled to enter into this unprecedented collaboration with the Village of Oak Lawn,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “We are eager to continue working with municipalities throughout Cook County to expand this critical program to remove blight and help return properties to productive use.”
The Vacant Building Ordinance, which was co-sponsored by President Preckwinkle and Commissioner Bridget Gainer (D-10th), is aimed at eliminating blight in communities hit hard by the foreclosure crisis by requiring owners and mortgagees to register their properties with the County and maintain the interior and exterior of the buildings to certain standards. It also expedites the adjudication process that continues to clog up the County’s court system.
The ordinance applies only to unincorporated Cook County but it provides a mechanism for municipalities to voluntarily opt-in.
The County created a new website that municipalities, owners, mortgagees and even residents can use to register their properties, track progress and engage directly with County government. The Department of Building and Zoning, the Department of Administrative Hearings and the Bureau of Economic Development will task staff members to ensure that the Vacant Building Ordinance is being implemented as successfully as possible.
The Intergovernmental Agreement was introduced to the County Board and referred to committee. The Agreement will last one year.