The City of Atlantic’s Code Enforcement Officer reported to the City Council, Wednesday, that efforts to get people to comply with City Code regarding dilapidated properties and un-mowed lawns, met with success this past summer. Kris Erickson said the first thing she did when she was named to the positon, was to raise the City’s fees for abatements. That was accomplished with assistance from the City Administrator, Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent and Street Department Superintendent.
Erickson said “The purpose of raising the fees was to hopefully minimize the number of properties that are abated each year, as well as make them current. In doing so, the price of equipment used by the City to clean-up neglected properties was set at an hourly rate, which she says “Has had the desired effect we were hoping [for].”
The City’s Code of Ordinances pertaining to grass mowing was recently changed to state that a person who was in violation of the ordinance requiring the grass to be mowed , would no longer receive a letter in the mail notifying them they were in violation before City crews mowed the property if it was at 12-inches at the 1st and 15th of each month. The City would then bill the property owner for the time and equipment. Erickson said that change didn’t exactly work out as planned.
She said since there were a few “hiccups” in the new system, Mayor Dave Jones suggested to Erickson that “Instead of going back on piles of paperwork, certified letters and deadlines,” the City send out postcards be made up on a one-time notice warning citizens if they were in violation, and giving them a weekend to comply.
She said that little change in itself has cut-down on the number properties the city has had to mow. Altogether, there were 45 grass abatements. There also weren’t too many properties that required clean-up by Erickson and Wastewater Treatment plant staff, but there was one property in particular with no one living there, that took hours to clean-up, and a struggle with the property owner to get them to comply. The property at 808 Birch was cleaned-up in late August.
Erickson said the problem in the back yard wasn’t immediately noticed, because it was hidden from view. There was a privacy fence that, while maintained on the outside to keep up appearances, was neglected on the other side. Once all the brush was cleared away from the back yard, a scaffolding used for installation of siding was observed against the house. Neighbors said it had been there for a couple of years.
The property owners were identified as Imperial One Properties. It cost the City a total of around $3,254 to clean up the mess. The City has been in contact with the owners and is working to recoup the cost of time and labor expended. Erickson said she is working with Interim City Attorney Dave Wiederstein on how to deal with abandoned or unattended properties. Information has been gathered she said, that will allow the City to move forward with legal proceedings.