Scottville cleaning up blight

April 15, 2013

SCOTTVILLE – The City of Scottville is looking at taking agreesive steps to clean up blight. The first step will take place tonight at the city commission’s regular meeting. The commission will hold the first reading of its new code of ordinances.

“These codes are basically what have already been on the books, except we removed a lot of the anqiquated language and have made them easier to enforce,” City Manager Amy Williams told MCP. In addition, the previous ordinance was located in an old book at city hall. The new ordinance is available for viewing on the city’s website, www.cityofscottville.org.

The change in language will allow the city to enforce the codes. The top priority will be to clean up blight.

“This came down through the master plan process,” Williams said. “When the planning commission was working on the master plan, we heard a lot of citizens complain about junk in yards, unsided or unpainted houses and other blight-related issues.”

Williams said for the past few years the city commission had taken a more forgiving stance on blight. “The commissioners were trying to be sensitive to the area’s economy,” Williams said. “But, we have reached a point where we need to do something.

“Our intention is to create a town that people are proud to live in. Houses that are deliapitated or properties that contain unwarranted junk means lower property values. We understand that people may not be able to afford to do this on their own and we are willing to help them find recources that may assist them,” Williams said. “But, there’s no excuse for junk in the yards. We offer two clean-up days, one is coming up on May 4.”

Williams said police will start visiting homes of people who are violating the codes and will give them an opportunity to comply without seeking any further action. If they do not comply within the designated time, as set forth in the ordinance, then they will receive a ticket. If they do not pay the ticket, the city will issue an arrest warrant. The city will then seek a judgement from the courts to have the property repaired and will lein the repair costs on the property owner’s taxes.”

She said as far as renters go, the liability will most likely fall on the landlord.

“We need the landlords to take responsibility for helping to make this town one that people want to invest in,” Williams said. “We have some really responsible landlords in town who are good neighbors, but we also have some who need to be more proactive in cleaning up their properties.”

The existing ordinances were re-written by a consulting firm and looked over by the city’s attorney, Tracy Thompson. The code, along with the city’s charter, can be found at the city’s website.

“That’s another advantage,” Williams said. “Having the code and charter on the website will save our office staff from copying and faxing parts of the ordinances. Now, they are conveniently located on the web.”

Williams said the city’s ordinance committee will be looking at other ordiances as well this year. She said there is not set timeline to address the other changes but it is a top priority for the commission. An example is the city’s parking fines. Currently the parking fines are $10. Often a resident in violation will pay several tickets rather than moving their vehicles off the streets during the required times.

“We don’t have parking violations because we like to give out tickets,” Williams said. “The purpose is so the streets are cleared, mainly for snow plowing. When repeat offenders park their cars in the street in the winter, it means the snow plow has to go around them. We are looking at significantly increasing the parking fines to discourage that sort of behavior.”

Ctiy Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. today.

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