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Does your local government pay for improvements on private property if reimbursed?
May 2, 2010 at 2:45 pm #99565
The Oklahoma Attorney General recently issued a decision that a city cannot use its funds, equipment, or labor to improve property owned by a private entity even if reimbursed:“1. A municipality may not lawfully use its funds, equipment or labor to improve property owned by a church, nonprofit corporation or other private entity, where such improvements are solely for the benefit of such church, nonprofit corporation or other private entity;
2. A municipality may not lawfully use its equipment and labor to improve such property, even if the municipality is fully reimbursed for its costs in making such improvements; and
3. A municipality may not lawfully use its equipment to improve such property, if the equipment was purchased in whole or in part from state apportioned funds in its street and alley fund.”
I was wondering how many local governments have a policy that currently allows improvement of private property if reimbursed?
May 3, 2010 at 2:51 am #99575
Keep in mind that there is a big difference between enforcing zoning and building codes and working “solely for the benefit of” the private entity.
I’m surprised this is an issue because governments are not usually competitive with private construction companies.
May 3, 2010 at 10:26 am #99573
I have seen this happen all the time in Illinois. Particularly when we did a construction project. Where I used to work the policy was if the homeowner wanted some minor work done while we were in the area working, we could have our contractor do the work and the homeowner would reimburse the city.
Unfortunately at my last job, I also saw a few homeowners put political pressure on the elected officials insisting that we construct improvements on their own property at no cost to them due to some fabricated reason that made no sense. But the elected officials would cave in and have the work done. One resident and his wife screamed and yelled at me to replace their entire driveway up to their garage – the drive wasn’t even that bad. They tried to argue the entire driveway (about 40 to 50 feet long) would not work because we reconstructed the road, but they were only about 10 feet from the end of the project so the elevations had not changed more than an inch at the most. But they bugged the mayor on a daily basis until he arranged to have the entire driveway replaced.
One mayor we had in that city years ago replaced an entire driveway totally on private property for no good reason at all other than the resident pressured him to do it. You would be surprised how many people in some communities will incessantly pressure elected officials to do favors for them.
That’s why I find this law particularly interesting – it would have prevented residents from having that ability to politically pressure elected officials to make private improvements at no cost to them.
May 11, 2010 at 2:44 am #99571
In DC, we do improvements on private homes that refuse to make repairs to meet building codes. We fine the property owner and then add to tax bill. If they do not pay, a lien gets placed on the property. In terms on voluntary work though, no.
May 15, 2010 at 11:47 am #99569
Brian Connolly, MPAParticipant
I’ve served in 8 municipalities from Dir. of Finance to Town Administrator to others and can tell you that public funds were used to pay for the repair to private property damaged by the local government department (ie DPW). One can debate if the “repair” was an overall improvement to what was there; I thought so, but we caused the damage. There are government programs, such as CDBG, where it is allowable to improve private property ONLY if the applicant meets certain guidelines (ie Income, location, and a few others).
In the strictest sense, I have never heard of a community using government funds to improve private property without a good reason for doing so.
Hope that helps….
May 20, 2010 at 9:38 am #99567
Hi Brian – you make some very good points. There are long standing government programs designed specifically to improve private property providing the property owner meets certain requirements. And you are also correct that it is perfectly normal and should be expected that a city would use its funds to fix private property damaged by its forces. I wonder how Oklahoma handles or views those programs or issues.
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