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In Wake of Collapse, Clarke Introduces Bill to Punish Speculators

In the wake of Wednesday's building collapse that killed six and injured 14 people at 22nd and Market Streets, Council President Darrell L. Clarke resurrected a bill to punish speculators that hold on to vacant properties.

Clarke, in the years before becoming Council president, introduced the so-called "non-utilization tax" three times, and the bill was defeated each time.

Clarke said before Thursday's Council meeting that he had wanted to introduce the bill again eventually, but Wednesday's tragedy spurred him to act now. It's unlikely the bill would pass before the summer recess on June 20.

The tax would be applied to vacant properties and would increase over time – the goal is to encourage owners either to develop or sell vacant properties. Speculators now often sit on vacant properties, doing little to maintain them, as the blight has a deleterious effect on the surrounding area.

The owner of the collapsed building, Richard Basciano, long has owned significant portions of the 2100 and 2200 blocks of Market Street and only recently announced plans to redevelop the area.

Council also held a moment of silence before the Thursday meeting for the victims of the collapse, while Mayor Nutter said the search of the rubble was far from over.

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