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Proposed nuisance property ordinance tabled by Council

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Bill Morris, community development director for the city of Roswell, answers questions about the proposed nuisance ordinance at the full City Council meeting on Thursday. (Alison Penn Photo)

A proposed nuisance property ordinance was tabled by the Roswell City Council for additional revisions.

Councilor Judy Stubbs made the motion to table the measure to be reviewed by the city’s Legal and Public Safety Committees. Stubb’s motion was seconded by Councilor Jeanine Corn Best and the 10 councilors’ voice vote passed unanimously.

The proposed ordinance appeared as one of the six public hearings at Thursday’s almost six-hour full City Council meeting. At the end of the meeting, City Manager Joe Neeb announced that a special City Council meeting will be held Thursday.

Fixing problems 

Bill Morris, community development director, reminded the council that the Legal Committee reviewed the proposed ordinance on Sept. 27 and Oct. 25 and council approved the public hearing at last month’s full City Council meeting.

According to the meeting’s agenda, the proposed ordinance “would define nuisance activities on private property and would allow the city to cite into municipal court after the city has determined that three or more nuisance activities resulting in enforcement action have occurred at premises during a 12-month period. The agenda also defined nuisance properties as homes which “generate significant demands on police, fire and emergency medical services (EMS).” An appeal process is also provided for in this ordinance.

Morris stressed the proposed ordinance is “not adding new or additional violations,” but rather building upon the existing city code. He said the proposed ordinance would give the city a chance to enforce already existing regulations while targeting certain properties that have an excessive amount of calls to the public safety and code enforcement personnel. The main difference with the ordinance is the city can invoice nuisance property owners directly in case of the noncompliance since at this time, each violation is treated as a unique instance and has its own legal process, Morris explained.

“The ordinance also emphasizes meeting with the property owner to try to develop an abatement plan geared toward eliminating violations and not just looking to be punitive,” Morris said. “We’re trying to fix the problems.”

“In the end, the intent of this ordinance is to make property owners responsible for activities occurring on their properties that are adversely impacting the adjacent community and which all city residents are currently paying for,” Morris said.

Mayor Dennis Kintigh clarified with City Attorney Aaron Holloman that the sequence of violations are subject to municipal code and the idea was these locations are receiving multiple calls of service from repeat offenders. Holloman explained that after notices are sent to the property owner, the owner would meet with the city manager or another designee. If the problems could not be abated, the property owner will receive invoices for the services the city has to provide. He said the intention is for citizens to understand there are consequences in ignoring notices from the city.

Councilors’ queries

Councilor Steve Henderson said the ordinance is an “honest attempt to try to clean things up and get rid of some derelict properties.” He added that the intent was to control excessive public safety responses from nuisance properties. Henderson also made a motion to amend the language to two or more nuisance activities rather than three nuisance activities, but there was no second and the motion failed.

Councilor Grant asked for clarification that citizens could be cited multiple times in one visit from the RPD or code enforcement. Grant said it is common for code enforcement to find multiple violations in one visit and Morris agreed with this statement.

In response to Grant’s concerns, Holloman affirmed owners would be penalized if they had multiple offenses at one time in this draft of the ordinance. Holloman also said the citations would have to be “separate in time and distinct” from one another.

Councilor Stubbs said the abatement plan was one of the reasons she was for the measure but expressed that she would table the measure if the council willed it. Councilor Jacob Roebuck, who was also in favor of the abatement plan, said there were some positives to the ordinance, but some of it was “extremely problematic.”

Councilor Savino Sanchez said the ordinance “sounds confusing,” people need to understand it easily and there were too many questions without answers. Councilor Juan Oropesa agreed with Sanchez and he also argued that the common man may not know where to go when it comes to city codes and regulations.

Donald Daughtery, in opposition, and Larry Connolly, in favor, spoke during the public hearing portion of the discussion. Daughtery said the proposed ordinance could have some “very serious unintended consequences.” He said the proposed ordinance would affect the poor and working class, which could cause physical evictions and homelessness, was anti-business, “un-American” and anti-landlord. Connolly said the ordinance was long overdue and if issues arose, the city could look into repealing the measure.

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