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For first time in 40 years, city updates nuisance laws

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By Molly Haines

The Owenton City Council met May 5 for the first reading of its updated nuisance ordinance, which had not seen any major changes in 40 years.

Owenton Mayor David “Milkweed” Wotier said the council could only take action on grass, shrubs and other similar things with the current ordinance.

“There are a lot of things that have changed in the last 40 years,” Wotier said. “With the new ordinance we will have the ability to take action on the overall structure of the property.”

Wotier said he receives more phone calls regarding eyesores within the city than anything else.

“People in the city have been crying out for several years,” Wotier said. “They call and they want to know why there hasn’t been anything done about the junky places in town and now we’ll finally be able to do something about it.”

If the ordinance is approved, amendments will be made to the property maintenance code. The council would have the authority to deem a building or home a problem structure, which is defined as a structure that poses a nuisance or danger to the public, police or fire departments.

The property maintenance code will also include updates on buildings damaged by fire, wind as well as other causes that are a threat to the lives or property of the public.

The council will also make changes in the ordinance dealing with motor vehicles. No inoperative or unlicensed motor vehicles can be parked, kept or stored on any public right-of-way.

The ordinance also includes updates on duty of maintenance of streets, sidewalks, drainage areas and public ways. Anyone who owns, occupies or has control or management of a building or lot in the city must keep the adjacent sidewalk of the building or lot free of all ice, snow and other obstructions or barriers.

Other conditions that are declared as a nuisance include:

• Junk, scrap metal, the storage of junk vehicles, vehicle parts, junk machinery and unused appliances.

• Accumulation of construction, demolition or landscaping debris.

• The use or storage of indoor furniture outdoors.

• Compost piles that may spread or harbor disease, have unpleasant odors or harmful gas.

• Nauseous substances or odors.

• Visual obstructions of streets such as a hedge, shrubbery or a fence that obstructs the view of any corner lot.

• Dilapidated structures.

• Graffiti.

• Keeping pet animals that cannot be properly maintained in a healthy condition.

The council has also set up a code enforcement board. The board will have the power to order repairs and or impose fines upon those who violate any part of the ordinance.

Councilman Casey Ellis, who has been pursuing an updated version of the ordinance, said at least 80 percent of the phone calls he receives are regarding the nuisance ordinance.

“We’re just trying to make people accountable for their property,” Ellis said. “You really can’t go down any street in Owenton that doesn’t have some sort of nuisance on it. We want to put an end to that.”

Wotier said he is hopeful the fiscal court will back up the council on their changes to the ordinance.

“We want to build a sense of pride in our community and this will bring us one step closer to our goal,” Wotier said.

Ellis said the council has a book full of outdated ordinances that they hope to address.

“The changes with this ordinance have been a long time coming,” Ellis said. “We have a lot more ordinances that need to be updated and hopefully we can spend the next couple of years reviewing those and making the changes to our city that are needed.”

Wotier is also preparing for a student employee. The student will be chosen by Wotier and will work 40 hours a week during the summer helping with various jobs around the city such as painting street curbs and street cleaning.

Wotier said the student employee’s pay will come from the federal stimulus package.