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Public chimes in on nuisance proposals

Aug 29, 2013 -- 11:49am

Southeast Missourian

 

Many of you had questions or suggestions at a public meeting Wednesday night on Cape Girardeau's planned efforts to overhaul nuisance rules.  About 40 people attended the meeting at the Osage Centre, where they were given handouts detailing a committee's recommendations for the ordinances. The committee consisted of members of the  police, public works and inspection departments. The committee's recommendations include changes to existing ordinances or new ordinances or procedures that cover graffiti, unlicensed vehicles, open storage, vacant properties, chronic nuisances and fines.

 Thomas M. Meyer, a local real estate agent, asked the committee to "use common sense" about a new ordinance that would declare any building unoccupied for more than six months a public nuisance and require property owners to obtain a permit and join a registry. Others suggested adding nuisance abatement proposals, such as not allowing garbage bags to be placed outside cans. They also suggested that ordinances should require the city to make every effort to notify property owners of a violation before issuing a ticket. Repeated violations of high weeds should be included in an ordinance covering chronic nuisances, and that fines increase for repeated violations. Another suggestion was the ordinances cover properties occupied by hoarders. Gail Hoffman asked the city to consider exceptions for violators cannot afford immediate action. City manager Scott Meyer said the city will weigh input on all the issues, along with what is constitutionally allowed and the city's ability to withstand any legal challenges. A tentative timeline for the council to vote on the changes is before the end of the year.

 

( See the details at www.960kzim.com)

 

*  For graffiti, a new ordinance would require an owner or responsible party to keep property clear of graffiti and remove it within 15 days of receiving notice by the city, or be charged for abatement.

 * Unlicensed vehicles would be considered a "damaged or disabled vehicle," so current ordinances pertaining to unlicensed vehicles would be more easily enforced.

 * Open storage of certain items, or "junk," would be prohibited. Some items in the ordinance would be cans, indoor furniture, building supplies not neatly stacked, machine and vehicle parts, pallets, inoperable appliances, scrap metal and tires. The items would not be allowed to be visible from any location where they could be seen off the premises. People responsible would have five days from the time they received a notice from the city to remove items, or the city would remove the items and bill the responsible party.

* Property unoccupied for six months would be declared a public nuisance under a new vacant building ordinance. Property owners would have to obtain an annual permit for $100 for any buildings remaining vacant more than six months and secure the building to prevent unlawful entry.

 

 * Properties where specific illegal activities are recurring would be deemed "chronic nuisances," and a hearing would determine the declaration's validity. A property owner would have to submit an improvement plan if a property were to be closed by the city. The property would remain closed until all issues were resolved and, if the city were to abate the issues, the owner would be issued a special tax bill for the cost.

 

* Language in the city code relating to abatement of nuisances would change, because the procedure for enforcement and hearings doesn't cover all nuisances.

 

* Fines would change from "up to $500" for a violation to $125 per violation.

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