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Lynchburg continues vacant property registration program

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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- The Hill City is working to deal with hundreds of vacant properties that dot the landscape.

Frances Hawkins made the tough decision to tear down a home her father Frank Hawkins built in 1946 on Hollins Mill Road.

"It was best for it to come down, because I really didn't have the money to put into it," Hawkins explained.

"I actually was raised in this home. My mother was a single parent, so he actually was the one who put me on the bus every day," said her daughter, Dana Hawkins.

Generations of children and neighborhood kids grew up there, but it became vacant 20 years ago, after Frances' father became ill.

"By us being young and not knowing anything about real estate and how to keep up a house and all. Plus, all of us had our own homes by then," said Frances.

Longtime residents said they have seen people move in and out of the Lynchburg neighborhoods for years. Some didn't leave the properties in the best conditions.

"I would love to see somebody buy them, renovate them and bring them back up to standard," said Senator Brew, who has lived in the neighborhood himself since 1946. "And some of them are being done."

It is what city officials hoped to accomplish with the vacant property registration program.

The city has billed more than 200 property owners an annual $100 fee, as part of the program. Of that, more than 100 owners have signed up.

Properties are required to be vacant at least 12 months, secured, and have no utilities for at least six months.

"Some properties are being sold, and some are being renovated, and some owners are notifying us that they're trying to get tenants in and we're happy to work with folks, because that's our collective goal," explained Kent White, the Lynchburg Director of Community Development.

He said the city will demolish properties only if they are in imminent danger of collapse, and the owners would have to foot the bill.

"We haven't decided what we're going to do, but we're definitely going to keep the grass cut," said Dana Hawkins, Frances Hawkins' daughter, regarding the now empty lot and other land the family owns nearby.

White said the registration process has been a success so far. He also says any one with complaints about vacant or dilapidated properties can contact the city and they'll monitor the situation.

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