Council member David Cameron, chair of the Law, Labor and Licensing Committee, introduced ordinances to establish the Vacant Home Registration Program and the Code Enforcement Board at the March city council meeting.
"We are fortunate in Fort Thomas to have very few vacant or nuisance properties in our city. However, when there is one in your neighborhood or on your street, then you know firsthand the negative impact and aggravation it can cause. Overgrown vegetation, rodent infestation, dead trees, and maintenance issues quickly become not only an eye sore but also hazards for our neighbors," said Cameron.
"Since my election to council, I have heard from residents who live near these properties and I understand their frustration. The ordinances I am proposing will provide the city with tools to address and prevent these scenarios."
When city code violations are ignored, they, too, can create unsafe or unsightly conditions that not only hurt the property in question but can have an impact on people living nearby or the entire neighborhood.
Cameron says the goal of both ordinances is not to penalize owners, but to encourage everyone to be a good neighbor. He says, adherence will improve properties’ safety and ultimately contribute to raising property values.
The reasoning behind creation of the Code Enforcement Board, said Cameron, is to create a more streamlined and responsive system for code enforcement. The board will consist of three residents appointed by the mayor for three-year terms. The ordinance also sets up a progressive fee structure for violations.
The Vacant Home Registration Program
A completed draft of the Vacant Home ordinance was recommended to council by the Law, Labor and License Committee.
The ordinance outlines when and how to register vacant property and penalties for those who have not registered within a certain time period.
"Vacant" is defined as property that has no legal resident or tenant. Evidence of a vacant home might include overgrown vegetation, an accumulation of mail or trash, disconnected utilities and other similar conditions.
Before filing, the creditor of the property (bank, savings and loan association, credit union or other entity that holds the debt), must inspect the property and determine whether it is vacant.
If foreclosure proceedings are underway, the property should be registered as vacant, and the ordinance lays out how and when this should happen. The ordinance also outlines expectations of maintenance of the vacant property and states that violations of any ordinances regulating a nuisance must be addressed.
There will be a fee of $100 for registration for one year. Failure to register will include a civil fine of $500. Property vacant more than one year will require a new registration and fee.
This was the first reading of the draft at the city council meeting.
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Establishment of a Code Enforcement Board
City Administrator Ron Dill announced at the council meeting that the draft of the Code Enforcement Board ordinance was not yet ready for draft form.
"What it comes down to is whether we are hitting the mark on a number of related issues…because it’s a whole lot more widespread than just creating a Code Enforcement Board. It affects a lot of our ordinances particularly with regard to how where our penalty statements are. Some are in our code ordinances, some in our zoning ordinances."
Dill did provide a draft of the penalty fee section of the ordinance. The schedule provides for first time penalty with an increase for subsequent penalties and an increase if there is an appeal.
The ordinance will establish an administrative board with the authority to issue remedial orders and impose fines to ensure compliance with city ordinances. It also sets out all the rules of board makeup, terms of office, quorum and related items.
The powers of the board will include the power or duty to:
- adopt rules and regulations to govern its operations and the conduct of its hearings consistent with this ordinance.
- conduct hearings to determine if there has been a violation of an ordinance over which it has jurisdiction.
- subpoena alleged violators, witnesses and evidence to its hearings.
- take testimony under oath, administered by the chairman for the purpose of taking testimony.
- make findings of fact and issue orders necessary to remedy any violation of a city ordinance or code provision which the board is authorized to enforce.
- impose civil fines, as authorized, on any person found to have violated an ordinance over which the board has jurisdiction.
- assign a hearing officer to conduct hearings in accordance with the role of hearing officers outlined ordinance.
More information on this ordinance will be available as details become available.
PHOTO: Law, Labor, License committee meeting. L to R: Mayor Eric Haas, Roger Peterman, Ken Bowman and David Cameron.