North Central Regional Planning July Newsletter
July 10, 2017
Nuisance Abatement Program to Begin
Every community desires to be an inviting place to live. The NCRPC is rolling out a new pilot Nuisance Abatement Program that will assist communities struggling to deal with “nuisance” properties that are unsafe or not in compliance with ordinances.
Common nuisances may include unlicensed cars; uncontrolled weeds, grass, trees, and bushes; houses with broken windows or doors; outbuildings in disrepair; vacant houses; and household garbage and other waste. In addition to these items being an eyesore for a community, many are also a threat to the health and safety of its citizens.
The new Nuisance Abatement Program is being modeled after the program developed by the West Central Nebraska Development District (WCNDD), which has been utilized by several different communities and agencies across Nebraska. Superior, Nebraska, is one example of a community that has utilized the program multiple years. NCRPC Executive Director Doug McKinney first learned about the Nuisance Abatement Program when he did an Economic Development Administration regional organization “peer review” in Nebraska.
While some larger communities have code enforcement officers, the majority of communities in the NCRPC region do not.
“It is understood that a number of communities in the region struggle with nuisances,” McKinney says.
“This program is a means for communities to have access to this type of service on a contractual basis without the full staffing costs associated with such.”
The program allows communities to use NCRPC for third party assessment and oversight.
“This alleviates any bias,” NCRPC Housing Director Carol Torkelson says. “All properties are treated alike and assessed based on the adopted ordinance regarding what is considered a nuisance.”
In addition to helping communities in the region clean up, Torkelson says the program offers another benefit. “It will demonstrate a community’s willingness to help themselves, which is especially important when applying for funding for infrastructure or housing projects,” Torkelson says.
Torkelson says for a community to participate, it must adopt a comprehensive Nuisance Abatement Ordinance, which is available from NCRPC, and commit to three things.
“Full buy-in by all members of the city council; financial commitment for administrative fees and nuisance removal; and patience and perseverance are all key,” Torkelson says. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”
The NCRPC plans to partner with a community for the first project in 2018. Any interested community may contact Carol Torkelson at 785-738- 2218 or firstname.lastname@example.org to express interest or request a presentation at a council meeting.
Community Focuses Efforts on Clean-up, Code Enforcement
When the City of Sylvan Grove’s application for a housing grant through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program was denied funding two years ago, the city decided to take a step back and evaluate.
Officials from the Kansas Department of Commerce visited the community and recommended cleaning up and enforcing code violations before applying again. Sylvan Grove City Clerk Jennifer Huehl says the city has since updated its ordinances, hired a part-time code enforcement officer, and has had successful community clean-up days—and it is all making an impact.
“There has been an education process as the officer talks to people about a problem and why it matters,” Huehl says. “Initially some were upset when the city started this process, but then people started seeing the impact it was making in their community. There has been a trickledown effect.”
Along with code enforcement, the city received a Community Clean-Up Grant through the Post Rock Community Foundation with funds from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation. The grant helped pay for removal of tires, equipment such as chainsaws, safety gear, food, fuel and landfill fees. Huehl says about 38 volunteers participated in the community clean-up day in April— including high school students and city council members who were able to take off work.
“It made a big impact overall that we went out and helped people,” Huehl says. “I think we forget that some people may not have a vehicle or the physical ability to do the clean up themselves, so this day was especially helpful for that.”
The community clean-up day resulted in the removal of 17 tons of tires, 11 tons of metal and multiple loads of limbs and yard waste.
“The outside perspective received at the city’s housing site visit two years ago helped create awareness and the momentum has continued,” NCRPC Housing Director Carol Torkelson says. “The community has worked really hard and is a great example of what can be done.”