Item Coversheet



Staff:
Agenda:
Scott A. Meyer, City Manager; Eric W. Cunningham, City Attorney
6/17/2013

MEMORANDUM
Cape Girardeau City Council

13-29



SUBJECT
Discussion of review and possible revisions to the City’s Nuisance Ordinances

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

A Memorandum suggesting several possible changes to the City’s Nuisance Ordinances is presented to the City Council this evening for consideration and discussion. The issues raised for discussion concern possible revisions to the City Ordinances concerning graffiti, unlicensed vehicles, open storage, vacant buildings, two nuisance abatement procedures for the purpose of issuing special assessments, and increasing fines.

BACKGROUND/DISCUSSION

The formation of an employee committee to review and recommend possible Nuisance Ordinance revisions was authorized by the City Manager on February 20, 2013. The committee’s assignment consisted of evaluation of the City’s current enforcement procedures, examining the existing Ordinances relating to nuisance, research of the enforcement procedures and Ordinances of other Missouri municipalities, and making recommendations for possible revisions. A Memorandum dated May 13, 2013, from that committee to the City Manager summarizing the work of the committee and setting forth a list of suggested changes is attached to this report for your review. Also attached is a collection of statistics concerning nuisance type violations enforced by the City for the year 2012, along with year to date comparisons for 2013.

 

The majority of these proposed changes would make a positive impact on the City’s nuisance enforcement efforts. The observations of City Management on each of these proposals are as follows:

 

  1. Graffiti. This Ordinance is patterned after an Ordinance in Kansas City, Missouri. This proposal would provide a useful tool to ensure that unwanted graffiti is not allowed to remain on a structure for an extended period of time.
  2. Unlicensed Vehicles. This proposal would change the current definition, and would declare that a vehicle is a “damaged or disabled vehicle” solely for not displaying a proper license plate, regardless of whether or not it was in a state of repair as to be inoperable. While this proposal would make enforcement easier, City Management is concerned that its terms are overly broad. For example, even a brand new vehicle which did not yet display a proper license plate would be declared to a “nuisance” under the terms of this proposal. (Section 13-59 of the City Code, however, would prevent this provision from applying to a duly licensed automobile repair or sales business, or in automobile junking yards. It would also not apply to vehicles stored in closed buildings.)
  3. Display of certain items prohibited. This proposal is patterned after an Ordinance from the City of Columbia, Missouri. Open storage is a common source of complaints, and the provisions of this proposal would provide an effective tool for addressing this type of problem. The only change we would suggest is that the final phrase be amended to read “the City may commence abatement procedures pursuant to the terms of this Chapter.”
  4. Vacant buildings. This proposal would require the owner of a structure that has been vacant for more than six months to obtain a “vacant building permit” from the City. In addition, it would require the building official to maintain a registry of all permitted vacant structures. No other city of which we are aware is currently using this procedure. City Management has concerns about the effectiveness of this type of permit requirement, as well as of the imposition of this permit fee. In addition, the City Manager can already require the building official to maintain a registry of all vacant buildings in the City without the necessity of this proposed Ordinance.
  5. Chronic nuisance. This proposal would establish administrative procedures for the abatement of “chronic nuisances” and for the issuance of special assessments to recover the cost of that abatement. This proposal was patterned after an Ordinance currently in effect in the City of Kansas City, Missouri. The procedures established would authorize City Staff to close a property which had been declared to be a chronic nuisance property. While this process would provide a valuable enforcement tool, City Management is concerned about the broad nature of this Ordinance. For example, the Kansas City Ordinance requires that the City Police Department has responded “five or more times on separate days during a 30 day period to the same property” concerning any of the enumerated prohibited activities, in order for that property to be declared a “chronic nuisance property”. This proposal requires no such minimum. However, the inclusion of this type of minimum violation requirement, along with other clarifications, would make this proposed Ordinance a valuable enforcement tool.
  6. Abatement procedure for nuisances and high weeds/grass. Section 13-35 of the Cape Girardeau City Code contains an abatement procedure for all types of nuisances contained in the City Code. However, even though the language states that it is applicable to all types of nuisances, the procedure is written in terms of enforcement against “weeds”, and a hearing is required to be held before a “weed abatement officer”. The attached proposal is also written to apply to any type of nuisance, but any hearing is to be conducted before an “abatement hearing officer”. The abatement hearing is only conducted upon the request of the property owner. Then, if an abatement order is issued, either the City “or persons under contract with the City” are given authority to enter upon the property and abate the alleged violation. This provision would provide additional flexibility by allowing contracted workers – as well as City employees – to perform the abatement. Several procedural concerns with the proposal, however, include:

(a)   by state law the five day notice of hearing requirement must be changed to seven days;

(b) the costs assessed against the property owner can only include the actual costs of the abatement and the actual administrative costs; and

(c)   the “disconnect service” provision is under Section 29-66 of the City Code, and not Section 29-88.

  1. Fines. Currently, nuisance violations are punishable by fines up to $500.00. The committee proposes that the City Council raise the minimum fine to $125.00 per violation.

The adoption of the abatement procedures contained in this proposal should make the City’s expenditure of funds for those abatement costs more collectable by the issuance of special tax bills against the property. However, the exact amount of that benefit is unknown at this time



GENERAL DIRECTION

After the City Council has had the opportunity to consider and discuss these issues, City Management recommends that the proposals numbers 1, 3, 5, 6, and 7 be prepared in proper Ordinance form, and presented at a future Council meeting for approval. As a part of that process, several current City Ordinances will either need to be amended or repealed in order to make the new provisions consistent with other provisions in the City Code.

 

Further, the committee did not have time to look at some of the issues brought up by management. If the Council wishes to pursue these proposals further, we will cause further review and collaboration to take place between the committee and the management concerns as the Ordinances are prepared, and implementation plans are prepared. We will then bring a perfected proposal back to Study Session prior to bringing the issue to a Regular Session
ATTACHMENTS:
Name:Description:
2013.05.01.Nuisance.Recommendation.Memo.docMemo from Nuisance Review Committee 05-13-13
April_2013_Health_Stats.xlsApril 2013 Health Stats
New_2013_Health_Stats.xlsNew Health Stats