Res­i­dents ask for ac­tion on un­sightly prop­er­ties

CH Coun­cil mulls op­tions to step up build­ing code en­force­ment

The Progress-Index Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Kelsey Re­ichen­berg Staff Writer

COLO­NIAL HEIGHTS — Sev­eral Colo­nial Heights cit­i­zens are dis­pleased with the aes­thet­ics of the city, and they took to a re­cent City Coun­cil meet­ing to ex­press their con­cerns.

Res­i­dents ap­proached the podium to ask city of­fi­cials to ad­dress var­i­ous prop­er­ties, both res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial, that they say are un­sightly and vi­o­late city and state codes.

Res­i­dent Kathi Har­risTem­ple com­plained about Cal’s Inc., a pawn shop and scrap metal dealer that sits at the city gate­way at 101 Boule­vard. Har­ris-Tem­ple ar­gued that the busi­ness fails to com­ply with two of the city’s use and de­sign stan­dards for re­cy­cling cen­ters and sta­tions: “The site shall be main­tained free of lit­ter” and “where re­cep­ta­cles for re­cy­clable ma­te­ri­als are lo­cated out­side of the build­ing, they shall be screened from pub­lic view.”

Har­ris-Tem­ple com­plained that “dump­sters are not cov­ered, they are in plain view from the Boule­vard, and de­bris is strewn on the lot.” She also said she be­lieves Cal’s is non-com­pli­ant with the city’s re­stric­tions on

burn­ing and stor­age of com­bustible ma­te­ri­als; and re­frig­er­a­tors. The city code, she noted, says that “The doors must be re­moved from re­frig­er­a­tors, ice boxes or sim­i­lar house­hold ap­pli­ances be­fore be­ing placed in a junk­yard.”

“This is not the prac­tice cur­rently in place at Cal’s,” Har­ris-Tem­ple said. “House­hold ap­pli­ances have not had doors re­moved. They are clearly vis­i­ble in the front part of his park­ing lot. This is an old law, but un­tended ap­pli­ances out in the open are a haz­ard.”

Cal’s prom­i­nent lo­ca­tion, Har­ris-Tem­ple said, gives vis­i­tors an un­fa­vor­able im­pres­sion of Colo­nial Heights.

“Cal’s is lo­cated ad­ja­cent to the main high­way, and it is at the gate­way to the city of Colo­nial Heights on the Boule­vard,” she said. “This is peo­ple’s first and last im­pres­sion of Colo­nial Heights when trav­el­ing to and from Petersburg on the Boule­vard. This does not give the im­pres­sion we want to make.”

Har­ris-Tem­ple asked coun­cil to take ac­tion im­me­di­ately, and Mayor Gre­gory Kochuba

re­sponded that the city man­ager and city at­tor­ney would look into the is­sues she raised.

In­ter­viewed later, City Man­ager Dou­glas Smith said the city has al­ready reached out to Cal’s man­age­ment. “Re­gard­ing the Cal’s prop­erty, staff will be meet­ing with them soon,” he told The Progress-In­dex. “Also, the mayor has spo­ken to Cal’s al­ready. The busi­ness is will­ing to work with the city like they have in the past to make im­prove­ments.”

Later in the meet­ing, two more res­i­dents asked coun­cil to take ac­tion on some res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties that they con­sider code-break­ing and aes­thet­i­cally-dis­pleas­ing.

Ann Cof­fin noted that she has ap­proached coun­cil in the past about a prop­erty on Forestview Drive. She also noted that Kochuba, Smith and In­terim Plan­ning Di­rec­tor Kelly Hall had come out to see the prop­erty two months ago, and she said the prop­erty has de­te­ri­o­rated fur­ther since then.

“I had a real es­tate lady come and talk to me about selling my house, and she said, ‘What’s with this prop­erty next door?’” Cof­fin said. “I said ‘I don’t know; he doesn’t want to do any­thing.’”

Hall noted that the Code En­force­ment In­spec­tor had sent sev­eral

let­ters to the prop­erty owner.

“He doesn’t pick up his mail,” Cof­fin re­sponded. “The post­man says his box is packed full.”

Fol­low­ing the pub­lic com­ments, coun­cil mem­bers discussed the is­sue of prop­erty ap­pear­ance, which mem­bers said they have tried to re­solve over the years. Coun­cil­man Joe Green sug­gested the city look into en­hanc­ing its or­di­nances or cre­at­ing new ones to ad­dress un­ap­peal­ing prop­er­ties.

“Some­thing needs to be done,” he said. “We are the re­spon­si­ble par­ties, and this has gone on for — I’m clos­ing in on 11 years here on coun­cil that this has been an is­sue, and it’s still isn’t fixed and I’m ashamed that noth­ing has been done at this point. And I’m go­ing to hope we can re­con­sider some­thing … we need to do some­thing.

Other coun­cil mem­bers agreed that there are sev­eral prop­er­ties in the city that need to be ad­dressed.

Smith pointed out that the city has a num­ber of codes re­gard­ing com­mu­nity ap­pear­ance that they en­force. How­ever, he said, the au­thor­ity pro­vided by the state to lo­cal­i­ties for en­force­ment does not ex­tend to cover all ar­eas that res­i­dents may be con­cerned about.

Kochuba asked Smith to add the topic to Septem­ber’s work ses­sion agenda, and sug­gested that coun­cil use a for­mat it had pre­vi­ously used to in­form the pub­lic that res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties vi­o­lat­ing code were be­ing taken care of.

“It just showed what prop­er­ties were brought to the code en­force­ment. Can we go back and kind of dust off that for­mat and re-present that to us at least in the month of Septem­ber?” Kochuba asked. “The point I’m try­ing to make is that if we show it here [at coun­cil meet­ings] as a chart, the pub­lic knows we’re not just do­ing noth­ing. We’re show­ing them some kind of ac­tion is be­ing taken.”

Smith agreed to look into that for­mat.

“Com­mu­nity ap­pear­ance is a pri­or­ity for City Coun­cil,” Smith said. “The coun­cil has pre­vi­ously ap­proved code changes such as re­quir­ing fit­ted car cov­ers for in­op­er­a­ble ve­hi­cles and re­cently chang­ing the place­ment of solid waste and re­cy­cling cans and con­tain­ers to be­hind the front of a res­i­dence/ busi­ness.”

[CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO]

Cal’s scrap yard on the Boule­vard in Colo­nial Heights was crit­i­cized for un­sight­li­ness at a re­cent City Coun­cil meet­ing. City Man­ager Dou­glas Smith says Cal’s man­age­ment has al­ready agreed to make im­prove­ments.

[KELSEY RE­ICHEN­BERG/ PROGRESSINDEX.COM]

Colo­nial Heights of­fi­cials are look­ing for ways to get own­ers to im­prove the ap­pear­ance of ne­glected prop­er­ties in the city like this one on Forestview Drive.

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