Nuisance ordinance moves forwardDiscussion given to enforcement of city nuisance ordinance
What began as a civil discussion about the first draft of changes to the city’s nuisance ordinance during the Washington City Council meeting Wednesday quickly became an argument over whether the city is doing enough to enforce existing ordinances.
The council approved the draft of the ordinance with discussed changes made during a workshop held last week. A few more changes were made during the meeting. After the motion to approve sending the draft to be written as an ordinance, Bob Shellmyer said that enforcing the existing codes should be the priority before making changes.
“It all comes down to enforcement,” Shellmyer said. “We can change all the things we want to, but if we don’t start enforcing it, what good is the time I am spending here on this subject.”
City administrator Brent Hinson said that there isn’t a consistent sentiment on the council of what enforcement means. He said the housing task force had stressed working with people instead of blatant enforcement. He said that takes longer. He said a “crack down” on all violators would have to be a directive from the council as a whole.
Shellmyer cited an example regarding a subject who had a goat at a city residence and how there was no follow up after the citation. Building and zoning administrator Steve Donnelly said that there was. He had checked the residence and the goat was gone, but it returned later.
Donnelly said that he tries to work with people in violation of code to get the situation resolved. He said that he could have the goat legally removed, but he was trying to work with the residents before resorting to that. He said the resident is supposed to contact him today and this was the last chance before turning the situation over to the city’s legal department.
“Steve cannot do his job if we get different interpretations on how to enforce and if he is going to be second guessed every step of the way,” Hinson said.
He said the council’s past practice has been that individual council members have told the building administrator how to enforce code. He said some felt that the building administrator was too tough while others thought the administrator was being too easy. He believes this is the reason there has been such high turnover in the position, when the council “micromanages.”
Shellmyer said that he wanted to know what time period would be between when a nuisance was cited and was enforced. Hinson said that it is decided on a case-by-case basis.
“I’m Steve’s boss and you don’t have a right to direct staff,” Hinson told Shellmyer. “I believe you do that often.”
Shellmyer said he didn’t believe he was directing staff. He asked Hinson to cite one example of when he did. Hinson said that “continuous harassment of the building official over a goat” was the example. Shellmyer said he contacted Donnelly once.
The council discussed the method by which landowners and residents would be served with a notice of violation of the city’s ordinances.
The ordinance will be on the Sept. 18 meeting agenda for the first reading.
During discussion Mayor Sandra Johnson said that she had concerns regarding businesses being operated out of a home. She said there are several residences that act as storage
for such things as construction equipment as well as several “full-time garage sales.”
Council member Bob Shepherd said he had spoken with people who were pleased that the council had taken the charge for an appeal hearing out of the ordinance.
“We made a lot of progress,” he said. “Hopefully this is a culmination of it.”
In other business, the council:
• approved giving a police escort to the Washington High School marching band from Lincoln Elementary to Case Field during home games and discussed a new route for the homecoming parade;
• learned the Washington Soccer Club rejected a draft of an agreement to allow the use of city property to build a soccer field. The issue will be discussed further at the Sept. 18 meeting;
• tabled discussion on vacating an alley to ally Kyle Middle to build a fence;
• upheld the finding that the Held property at 322 N. D Ave. in Washington is a dangerous building. A police raid found a methamphetamine lab in the building and it has been quarantined since;
• Held a public hearing on spending $33,000 on police vehicles and approved the loan agreement;
• took no action on approving a city match for the south side area connector project;
• approved the city match for a sidewalk project along South Avenue B; and
• approved a resolution authorizing assessment of costs to the Washington County Treasurer.