Nuisance to neighbor
Deb Hadachek Editor
North Central Regional Planning, Beloit is using Belleville as a pilot project to see if outside enforcement can help cities finally rid themselves of blighted properties.
Unbiased inspectors will look at every single property in the community and notify owners if they are in violation of the city’s nuisance ordinances. These inspectors will not trespass, but will make their determinations based on what they can see from the street or public alley.
This doesn’t stop the city from acting on its own for other properties which may be a public health hazard or in which neighbors file complaints.
But it does take the “the city is just picking on me” element from the discussion. It could be that a city council member–or the city itself– may be put on notice to clean up or else. As NCRPC housing director Carol Torkelson says “We don’t know who people are here or where they live. We’re just enforcing the ordinance.”
City council member Catherine Derowitsch rightly pointed out that the city needs to be prepared to take any violators to court if they stubbornly ignore the NCRPC inspectors’ warnings. For too long, blighted property owners have gambled that nothing will really happen to them if they do nothing.
But a friend pointed out another reality this week that bears noting. Some of these properties may be owned by people who are elderly, handicapped, or financially unable to make necessary repairs to their properties.
A few months ago the Telescope carried a story about the FaithWorks initiative, a partnership of local church members who are willing to provide labor to homeowners for some projects like cleaning up or painting that they can’t tackle on their own. Other people might need help learning simple carpentry and maintenance skills they don’t have.
As we look at our own properties with a critical eye, perhaps we should also be neighborly.
The word “community” means we don’t live just for ourselves, but we share other peoples’ burdens as well. It might not take much to turn a “nuisance” into a “neighbor”.
A new pilot Nuisance Abatement Program 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.
While some larger communities have code enforcement officers, many in the NCRPC region do not. 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 by using the NCRPC for third party assessment and oversight.