Home News Local News Chronic nuisance ordinance to be revised by city staff

Chronic nuisance ordinance to be revised by city staff

From left, City Councilors Judy Stubbs, Savino Sanchez, Barry Foster and George Peterson listen as City Attorney Aaron Holloman explains the chronic nuisance ordinance at the Legal Committee meeting on Thursday. (Alison Penn Photo)

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The city of Roswell’s Legal Committee reviewed the proposed chronic nuisance ordinance and determined to send it back to staff instead of considering recommending approval to authorize a notice of public hearing.

The drafted language of the nuisance ordinance in the meeting’s agenda stated the city has determined that some properties “generate significant demands on public safety services,” “significant demands on police, fire and EMS services,” and should reimburse the city for being a chronic nuisance property.

At the end of the discussion, Councilor Judy Stubbs asked the committee if the consensus was to review the ordinance again with City Manager Joe Neeb in this month’s meeting. Councilors Savino Sanchez, Barry Foster and George Peterson agreed, and Stubbs said no formal motion was required at Thursday’s meeting.

City Attorney Aaron Holloman said this ordinance came from one of Neeb’s ideas for community redevelopment.

“The waiver of liens, selling of properties — that’s one side,” Holloman said. “The other is the not allowing one property to become a center for bad activities.”

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Holloman said the ordinance would involve the code enforcement, police and fire departments, but at this time there’s “no simple system” for reporting potential violations for the three different departments. With the upcoming Tyler Software update, Holloman said this would be potentially possible in the next two years. Holloman said he had some concerns with the ordinance and one of them was tracking the violations.

Holloman explained the proposed ordinance lists nuisance activities requiring law enforcement action and their frequency limit before being charged for these departments’ services at one property. He said after three violations in a one-year period, the property owner would be contacted in writing and required to make an abatement plan in order to stop calling city services so frequently. He said if there is no action to solve these issues, the property owner would be assessed the charges for the responses from RPD and RFD for chronic nuisance.

Holloman said the envisioned purpose is helping citizens with an abatement plan and not the fine. He added the “bigger plan” was to put citizens in contact with a social worker or better medical care if the constant calls are beyond the scope of the city’s services.

Holloman clarified that the city is not trying to deny service, but rather recover costs from chronic nuisance properties. Mike Mathews, the city’s public safety director, said ambulance, police, fire and code enforcement services will always respond and service would not be interrupted. Mathews said the ordinance was to assist people in correcting behaviors rather than calling ambulance services twice a night, seven days a week for overdosing.

Councilor Foster said this ordinance “is not something that we are going to enter lightly” and he agreed with the concept. Foster said three citations in one year were a small amount and the limit should be raised. Councilor Peterson agreed with Foster and Peterson said some of the chronic nuisances were necessary, while others were not. Foster said he was also concerned about the language stating multiple charges in one instance could penalize citizens unfairly. In response to Foster, Holloman said the citations on the same day would have to be distinct in time or different days.

For domestic violence, Holloman said he was concerned this ordinance could create an impediment for a domestic violence situation where a person would not want to report out of fear of being charged a fine. He said from previous work he has done, he is aware of the complexity of domestic violence situations.

“I think domestic violence, in my personal opinion, is a whole different situation than what we are trying to say here,” Stubbs said.

Stubbs said without specifying what would happen, instances of domestic violence would leave the matter “in limbo.” Holloman replied to Stubbs by saying there is a similar Albuquerque ordinance, which does state that domestic violence, or battery against a household member, is not considered a chronic nuisance. He said he would be open to specifying this if it was within the will of the council. Stubbs said she thought it was appropriate to not be included on the list of chronic nuisance activities because the intent of the ordinance was different. Peterson also said it doesn’t need to be included in the list.

Sanchez said law enforcement already knows how to handle domestic violence and Holloman said the Roswell Police Department maintains a close relationship with the Roswell Refuge for Battered Adults, a local domestic violence shelter.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.