In Aftermath of Building Collapse, Philly Mulls Vacant Property Tax

The tragic deaths of six people in last week's downtown building collapse have prompted Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke to revive a bill he originally sponsored 13 years ago that would penalize owners of vacant properties.
June 10, 2013, 5am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"Following the catastrophic building collapse at 22d and Market Streets, Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke resurrected a bill Thursday to punish speculators for holding on to vacant, often dilapidated, properties," reports Troy Graham. "The bill would create a 'non-utilization tax,' which would charge an owner 10 percent of a property's assessed value after it had been vacant for more than a year."

"The tax would increase in each of the next two years of vacancy, and again after five and 10 years of vacancy," explains Graham. "The goal would be to encourage owners either to develop or sell vacant properties."

"Clarke sponsored a bill to set up a similar tax in 2000. It passed but was never enforced due to questions of legality."

In related news, the operator of an excavator that was working on the building site on the day of the collapse has been charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter, report Mike Newall and Aubrey Whelan. Sean Benschop, who is said to have began working at the site two weeks ago, reportedly tested positive for recent marijuana use after the collapse. "A law enforcement source said Benschop had used the excavator to remove a second-story beam just seconds before the building toppled onto the shop."

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Published on Saturday, June 8, 2013 in philly.com
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