Neighbors Want Unsightly Property Cleaned Up

May 15, 2018
By: Dwayne Page

The City of Smithville has a property maintenance ordinance but at least a couple of residents are frustrated with the lack of enforcement in their neighborhoods.

During last Monday’s monthly meeting, a city resident and business owner appeared before the Mayor and Aldermen asking for help.

The woman, who resides on West Main Street, showed pictures of her next door neighbor’s rental property which she says has been largely unkept for a long time.

“I’ve been here for nine years and this has been on-going for seven years. I have contacted the mayor and he has done the best he could do to get this place cleaned up. I have gone as far as putting up a wooden picket fence because the property is so bad. There is a lot of overgrowth and the house and barn on the property are in rough shape,” she said.

Meanwhile a city resident in another part of town was also at the meeting complaining of unkept property in his neighborhood. He too said the problem has been lingering for several years.

Although the existing property maintenance ordinance calls for the building codes inspector to serve notice upon violators, the city has recently been placing that responsibility with the police department.

“What we have been doing lately is having an officer deliver a letter to the property owner once we receive a complaint and then they have ten days to clean up their property. If that doesn’t happen then the city can go in and clean it and charge the property owner by adding it to their tax card. The city also has the option of taking a lien against that property if need be,” said City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson.

City officials assured these concerned property owners that their issues would be addressed.

“I’m proud you came up here tonight. We need more people to speak out,” said Alderman Danny Washer, who has long advocated getting tougher on those in violation of the city’s property maintenance ordinance.

Since the police department has taken on the duty of serving notices to violators, Chief Mark Collins said so far no citations have been necessary. “Once a complaint is filed and we get the papers, we assign it to an officer and he goes to see them (violators). The officer serves the notice and gives them ten days to clean up their property and it’s up to that officer to go back after ten days and check it out. We have served three notices so far but we have not had to write any citations. Whatever was in the ordinance has been taken care of and they did not have to be cited into city court,” said Chief Collins.

Under the city’s existing property maintenance ordinance, “It shall be the duty of the Building Inspector of the City of Smithville to serve notice upon the property owner of record in violation. The property owner shall be notified in writing specifying the nature of the violation, specifying the corrective measures to be taken, and require compliance within not more than 30 days. The notice may be served upon the owners of the premises where the violation is located by:

Posting notice in plain view on the property in violation, or sending notice by mail.

The date the notice is posted or received by the offender shall serve as the beginning of the specified time period allowing for corrective action.”

The ordinance further states that “Failure by the property owner to take corrective action to bring the property within compliance shall constitute a violation and be a civil offense.”

“Any person violating this chapter shall be subject to a civil penalty of $50 for each separate violation of this chapter. Each day the violation of this chapter continues shall be considered a separate violation,” according to the ordinance.