About Vacant Lots
A vacant lot is basically nothing more than a parcel of land on which nothing has been built. However, a lot can also be considered vacant if a structure does exist on it, but the structure has been vacated by the owners or inhabitants. Vacant lots can exist in rural areas or smack in the middle of a downtown urban area. Many communities in urban areas especially have attempted to take advantage of laws related to adverse possession to transform an unsightly vacant lot into a piece of community pride.
• A vacant lot is not necessarily an unowned piece of land. In fact, most vacant lots are privately owned, although some are considered public property as a result of being technically owned by the municipality. When a vacant lot is owned privately and not maintained, many times the result will be that someone sets up home on it. This is called squatting and can lead to a legal case involving adverse possession in which there is the potential for the actual owner of the land to lose the right to it because he has failed to provide continuing and adequate care.
• Most vacant lots can be identified by virtue of a lack of maintenance. There may be overgrown brush as well as garbage or trash that has been dumped by other nearby residents. As a result, many other residents of the neighborhood begin to push for the owner or the city to take care of the lot because its unattractiveness reflects upon the neighborhood at large. When a neighborhood is blighted by more than one or two vacant lots, residents may be concerned that visitors and potential home buyers may judge the entire neighborhood adversely by judging that everybody is as uncaring about appearances as the owner of the lot.
• The features of a neighborhood with a growing collection of vacant lots can be a symbol of the deprivation and economic devastation of the area. Although most vacant lots have never been subject to construction, many others–especially in urban areas–are the result of the removal of even more unsightly abandoned homes or businesses. This is also often the case in rural areas that have witnessed urban flight of residents. This kind of vacant lot is the result of economic downturn, and these vacated parcels of land quickly become often pain reminders of better times that have passed.
• The number of vacant lots in a neighborhood or entire city generally is a sign of the economic status of that area, even though the lots do not necessarily reflect upon the other residents. When a community begins to become overrun with vacant lots, it’s usually a sign of economic difficulties. For instance, many cities in Michigan experienced a spike in the number of vacant lots beginning in the 1980s when the automobile industry began suffering difficulties. On the other hand, the number of vacant lots have been shrinking in states like Florida and Arizona that have benefited from population shifts of the last few decades.
• Vacant lots can actually become dangerous. The growth of thick weeds can hiding places for illicit activity including drug use or even drug trafficking. Homeless people who may set up home in these lots can often present dangers to residents, especially children. In more rural areas, the thick growth can hide snakes and attract wild dogs and cats.
• There are benefits to vacant lots as well. Many community planning organizations have taken advantage of the ability to use them to actually increase the attraction of the neighborhood. Throughout the country, vacant lots have been transformed into gardens, playgrounds and even baseball fields. Certain municipal applications must be filed and environmental regulations must be adhered to–as well as often getting permission from the lot’s owner or the city. However, the results in many cases have led to the beautifying of the area.
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