Three new ordinances could be discussed by the City Council in July.
Several weeks ago, drafts of three ordinances — a rental inspection ordinance, a public nuisance ordinance and a vacant real property ordinance — were circulated. Crystal Surdyk, city development director, hopes the ordinances can be on the July City Council agenda for approval.
“As soon as possible,” Surdyk said. “We have a number of people who we’ve asked for comments from — other departments, the police department and then other housing agencies. We’ve shared all of those with our housing coalition, some landlords. I think at the last housing coalition meeting I had asked to have them back by the end of this week (Friday) but if we could have them back by the end of the month so we can get them going for approval next month from council, that would be wonderful.”
The rental inspection ordinance would require both rental registration and an inspection before a a housing unit can be rented. Registration would include a description of the property, name and contact information for the property’s owner, contact information for a local contact representative; a name, address and telephone number a tenant can contact when requesting repairs; and information about housing code violations for which an owner has been cited for the past two years.
If a property is sold, the new owner would have 30 days to re-register the property.
The inspection would include common areas accessible to all occupants of a property, including lobbies, laundry rooms, recreation areas, common kitchens, stairs, courtyards, light wells, garbage areas, boiler rooms, storage rooms, basements, roof areas or parking garages or parking areas.
The proposed public nuisance ordinance would replace the current City Code titled “Nuisances declared; abatement.” The new proposed ordinance would allow the mayor or development director to order an end to any or all activity that has contributed to a public nuisance, including ordering a premises to be closed and assessing a civil penalty.
Several different violations would qualify as a public nuisance, with three or more arrests constituting the existence of a public nuisance.
The legislative intent for the public nuisance ordinance states the city has found that relatively few property owners own or control property that is used illegally or isn’t maintained. Habitual violations, the ordinance states, decrease the quality of life in city neighborhoods while taxing police officers and code enforcement by having to make repeated visits to the same properties multiple times a year.
“This ordinance is enacted to encourage property owners to recognize their responsibility to ensure that activities occurring on their property conform to the law and do not adversely affect their neighborhoods, unduly burden the city’s code enforcement resources and to provide a mechanism for the city to take action against property owners who fail to ensure property they own does not require a disproportionate level of code enforcement resources to be devoted to such property,” the draft ordinance states in its legislative intent.
VACANT REAL PROPERTY ORDINANCE
City officials want to create a registration of abandoned or vacant property that includes a description of the property, names and addresses of all owners, names and addresses of lienholders, ways to reach the people responsible for a property, insurance information and a vacant building plan.
The vacant property ordinance would include properties that have broken or severely damaged windows, doors, walls or roofs that create hazardous conditions or encourage trespassing; properties where maintenance is not performed in line with neighboring properties, properties cited for a public nuisance or properties that endanger the public’s health, safety or welfare because they are abandoned or vacant.
Code enforcement personnel or a Jamestown City Court judge would be given the authority to require owners to implement additional maintenance or security; take care of issues and charge the property owner; and eventually put a lien on the property if the city’s costs are not reimbursed.
“The City Council of the City of Jamestown finds that many owners of vacant properties located within the City fail to maintain those properties sufficiently,” the draft ordinance’s legislative intent states. “This neglect results in increased criminal activity, the exacerbation of poverty, and issues for those homeowners who live near these properties. … “The City Council further recognizes that vacancy issues also arise at vacant commercial or industrial properties within the city. Vacant commercial and industrial buildings serve as a real detriment to the city. These properties are often subjected to property crimes due to their vacancy, they detract from the greater aesthetic the city would like to achieve, and they often also see their taxes unpaid through the period in which they are vacant.”