building a dream life, not just a house

Trying to Make a Change: My Letter to the Mayor

Trying to Make a Change: My Letter to the Mayor

Our blog has been silent for the past two months, I apologize! We have been so busy on our home and have made SO much progress it is incredible. I will write a separate blog about our final demo day and the progress that has been made since April. What I want to talk about today is a frustration that I have aired on this blog previously and that is the “registration fees” due to the city quarterly for owning a vacant home with 2 or more code violations.

I received a letter from the city yesterday instructing me to reregister and submit a check for $500 for the registration fees. I did as instructed but it has continued to nag at me so I decided to attempt to make a change and send a letter to our Mayor. Here is what I had to say:

Dear Mr. Langfelder,

My name is Keshia Dotson, I am 27 years old and recently purchased a home in the neighborhood of Enos Park with my significant other in March of this year. Before I begin telling you why I am writing you I want to first  thank you for taking the time to read my correspondence. I have never envisioned myself sitting down and actually writing to one of my elected officials asking for change but I suppose no policy has ever effected me so profoundly; so here we both are.

I am writing you concerning Section 170.58(a) of the Springfield Ordinance, registering a vacant building with 2 or more code violations and how it  is impacting me negatively. I mentioned that I purchased a home in Enos Park this year. My boyfriend and I purchased the property from the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association. We did not get financing for the purchase and bought the home from the EPNIA with cash and plan to cash flow the renovations as well. As a young couple looking to start a family we were thrilled at the opportunity to essentially build our home with our own hands and start our lives debt free as well as help our city rebuild a blighted community. However, our enthusiasm was squashed three days after closing when we received a a letter from the Building and Zoning department instructing us to fill out an application to register our property and submit a payment of $300 within 10 days. To this day I can still not understand how you can penalize someone for buying a distressed property and essentially fine them for having code violations after 10 days! There is no grace period that allows them to even fix said code violations. I was discouraged but paid the fee and moved on trying to keep my spirits high.

Fast forward 3 months, our house is moving along spectacularly! After three 40 yard dumpsters we finally have the interior completely demolished to the studs, last week my father and boyfriend spent 10 hours in the 96 degree heat working on jacking up the home to make the floors level again and next week I planned on going to the Building and Zoning department to apply for electrical and plumbing permits so that we could begin the next phase of our renovations. My plans came to a screeching halt when I checked my mail yesterday and had a letter from the Building and Zoning department reminding me it was time to renew my registration and submit a payment of $500 with my application. The application has been refilled out and the check written and mailed but it is still weighing so heavily on my heart. In three months time I have paid $800 to the the City of Springfield for owning a home that I am trying desperately to renovate. 

I truly understand why the ordinance is in place, I have lived in Springfield for 7 years now and have seen the urban decay. I watch the news, I see the gang violence that has sprung from said decay. I understand that there are blights on the city and this is a way to encourage home owners to not let their home become a blight and not let neighborhoods fall the way Enos Park had. I don’t want that for my city at all either, that is why I bought the home I did to help raise the city up in such a small way. I am not one of those careless homeowners! In order to purchase our home we had to go through an application and interview process, we had to sign contracts promising to restore our home in a timely manner, we got our building permits the day we closed and started demolition within the week! $800 may not mean a lot to someone but for a young couple trying to renovate our home that could buy all the wiring needed to ensure the our house is safe. 

Mr. Mayor I am not asking you to abolish the ordinance, I am however asking you to waive it for homeowners that purchase their homes through the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association as long as permits are obtained and kept up to date and progress is being made on the house to bring it up to code. Thank you for consideration and your time.

Sincerely yours,

Keshia Dotson

I do not know if this will make any difference in the long run, come September I will pay our property taxes and the next $500 installment, but it makes me feel better knowing that I at least tried, because isn’t that all any of us can ever really do?

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