City of Darlington looking to crack down on vacant downtown properties, storefronts

Darlington looking to crack down on empty storefronts

DARLINGTON, S.C. (WMBF) - For years, many Darlington vacant storefronts and homes have become an eyesore for the public and they’ve reduced the value of surrounding businesses.

Darlington City Council could soon require the vacant property owners to register their buildings with the city and pay a fee for every year it sits unused.

“For the first year, everyone’s registration fee is a flat $400 to register it,” said Planning Director Lisa Rock.

The property owners are able to file an exemption to have their fee reduced to $100.

To get an exemption, property owners will have to clean up their buildings.

“We’ll inspect your property and if there’s no hazard we can give you the reduced rate,” Rock said.

Rock also explained that empty buildings cause headaches for the city due to potential crime, trespassing as well as posing a fire risk.

She hopes the registration fees will force owners to take pride in their property making it nicer for the community and eliminate some of those problems.

“If you don’t want to pay the $400 or $100, then you can sell your property or you can lease it out and occupy it,” Rock said. “Then we’ve been able to be inside the building and see that it’s safe for the neighboring properties.”.

Several business owners in downtown Darlington think the registration program is a good idea, but they’re worried the $400 fee isn’t enough to motivate change.

Those fees are only the beginning, though.

Rock said if a building remains vacant for more than three years it could cost the owner up to $3,000.

“If I’m a business and I’m coming through your town and see a bunch of dilapidated buildings,” she said. “I’m going to keep driving and not look at your town. We’ve got to stop that and we’ve got to keep the progress we have going, going forward.”

The Darlington City Council will have their first reading on the new program next month.

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