The city of Higginson will be putting more teeth into its March 1997 ordinance on condemnations, according to Mayor Randell Homsley.
During the Monday night Higginson City Council meeting, Homsley said, “I went for a long time wanting to give people chances to clean their property up because I have always been one of those that thought the government shouldn’t be on your property telling you what to do.” However, now, he said, “we have a lot of places where we are going to have something done.”
According to Homsley, he is going to have Higginson Police Chief Eric Patterson go around town and compile a list that can be prioritized to deal with the worst properties that need to be cleaned up.
“It has gotten to the point that we have to do something about it,” Higginson said, mentioning a property on Railroad Street that he said had gotten so bad that the house that is located there can’t be seen.
“After we get our list going, we will tackle them one at a time,” he said. The ordinance provides for “the condemnation and removal of houses, buildings and/or structures constituting a nuisance within the corporate limits; providing for a lien on the property; providing a penalty therefore and for other purposes.”
Homsley said if the city cannot determine who owns the property, all it has to do is post a notice on the property and the owner would have 30 days to come see the notice and abide by it, getting the property cleaned up. If owners don’t look at their property in a month’s time, he said, that shows they don’t care about it. Making contact by certified mail also is something the city will try to do, Homsley said.
As far as finding out when a house, building or structure is at the point of being a nuisance, the ordinance states that the building is in such a condition as to be unfit for human habitation; is more than one-half destroyed by fire or storm and has been for longer than six months; has been partly built and has remained more than one-half unfinished for more than 12 months from the cessation of work; or is found to be a house where more than three felony arrests for drug use or possession have been made within 12 months.
After a house, building and/or structure has been found and declared to be a nuisance and condemned by resolution, “a true or certified copy of said resolution will be mailed to the owner or owners thereof ... and a copy thereof shall be posted at a conspicuous place on said house, building and/or structure. Notice shall be complete upon receipt of the certified mail or 30 days after posting the notice.”
If the nuisance property has not been torn down and removed in 30 days after the posting of the resolution, “the building and/or structure constituting the nuisance will be torn down and/ore removed by the Mmyor or his duly designated representative.”
If the house, building and/or structure has a substantial value, a 10-day notice would be published in the newspaper and it will be sold, along with any salable material, to the highest bidder in a public land sale. All proceeds of the sale and all fines collected from the provisions of the ordinance shall be paid by the person or persons collecting the same to the town treasurer.
The ordinance also calls for imposing a $50 fine 30 days after the structure is “declared to be a nuisance by resolution” and each day after that “constitutes a separate and distinct offense punishable by fine of $50.”