I wanted to post today and maybe correct some misconceptions about the City’s action on 9300 Prescott. This isn’t to clarify my position…that’s no mystery.
Some have indicated that “If the city had done something 5 years ago we wouldn’t be in this position!!” You’re wrong. We have been doing things. About 4 years ago, after writing violation after violation and building our case, our staff finally took the owners to court. After much back and forth, the judge ordered the owners to repair the house. The owners countered that they didn’t have the means to fix the house. The judge offered the City two options: pay to fix it ourselves or be quiet. The Council, at that time, voted to spend around $35k to stabilize the house. Two weeks later, Mr. Parrish (who originally voted to spend the money), brought the matter back up and voted against it. At this point, things went into a holding pattern. There was no point in staff writing more violations – if the Council wasn’t going to take action that was simply a waste of time. So, the issue went into hibernation.
Others have indicated that we should, somehow or other, fine the owners into submission. That’s an interesting idea but we don’t have civil fines for zoning infractions. (The Land Use Committee has asked staff to re-institute fines but the planning commission doesn’t seem to be on board). We also don’t have fines for building code violations. Those were both eliminated before I was on the Council. I don’t know why we don’t but we don’t. The City can take you to court after several violations but if you don’t have the money to fix your property, the judge really isn’t going to do anything and the City isn’t going to do anything about it either….
Some seem to think the City doesn’t take enforcement seriously enough: we have 4 inspectors that do our work city-wide. One of the first things I did after I was first elected was to add 3 inspectors to augment that workforce (only had 1 then). I guess that we can add more inspectors but it all costs money. Our inspectors are “combination inspectors”. They do both building and zoning inspections.
Finally, let me explain how the law works: if the Council declares your property to be “blighted” we will send you a letter indicating that you have 90 days to clear the situation. If the property owner does nothing, the staff brings the matter back to Council for a decision: do nothing, clear the lot or stabilize the structure. Whichever way things go, the work is done and the City puts a lien against the property. The lien draws a penalty of 10%/year (!). If, after 2 years the lien is not repaid, the City can compel a sale of the property. That’s pretty bare-knuckled stuff if you ask me and the Council always needs to proceed carefully.
If you have questions, post below. If you start throwing rocks, you’re done.