Caro­line com­mis­sion­ers pass noise bill, kill blighted prop­er­ties bill

Times-Record - - NEWS - By ABBY AN­DREWS aan­drews@car­o­line­times­

DENTON — The Caro­line County com­mis­sion­ers at their meet­ing Tues­day, April 18, de­clined to take ac­tion on a pro­posed bill that would have ad­dressed blighted and ne­glected prop­er­ties in the county, ef­fec­tively killing it.

Com­mis­sion­ers said it was too broad, and di­rected county staff to be­gin work­ing on a new draft that met the more tar­geted goals they had in mind.

An­other bill, al­low­ing law and code en­force­ment of­fi­cers to han­dle com­plaints about am­pli­fied noise that can be plainly heard in some­one else’s house, was unan­i­mously passed, and will go into ef­fect Fri­day, June 2.

The bill addressing ne­glected prop­er­ties was in­tro­duced in Fe­bru­ary. At a pub­lic hear­ing April 4, some res­i­dents spoke in fa­vor of it, say­ing eyesore prop­er­ties bring down the val­ues of those around them, while other res­i­dents were op­posed to it, wor­ried it would erode own­ers’ rights to do what they want with their own prop­erty.

The bill would have cre­ated a Nui­sance Abate­ment Board to hear com­plaints about prop­er­ties that might con­sti­tute a pub­lic nui­sance.

The board would have de­cided whether to dis­miss com­plaints or de­clare prop­er­ties a pub­lic nui­sance, and would have had the author­ity to is­sue an abate­ment order or take other le­gal ac­tion, in­clud­ing or­der­ing the prop­erty to be closed for up to a year.

The bill pro­vided pro­ce­dures for no­ti­fy­ing prop­erty own­ers of a com­plaint and hold­ing pub­lic hear­ings on those com­plaints, and said the Caro­line County Depart­ment of Plan­ning and Codes would have had to prove that a pub­lic nui­sance ex­isted and the owner, lessee, res­i­dent or agent had failed or re­fused to co­op­er­ate with at­tempts to abate it.

Vice Pres­i­dent Larry Porter said he did not like that the bill in­cluded oc­cu­pied houses.

“It was not my in­ten­tion to get to a point where we’d take a home some­one’s liv­ing in,” Porter said. “The point was aban­doned, blighted prop­er­ties, owned by banks, in fore­clo­sure, that need to be boarded up, or the grass cut. That’s the ex­tent I’m will­ing to go.”

“This be­came all-in­clu­sive,” said Com­mis­sioner Wil­bur Le­ven­good. “That’s not where I wanted to go ei­ther.”

Caro­line County Depart­ment of Plan­ning and Codes Di­rec­tor Katheleen Free­man said the pro­posed bill was com­plaint-driven, mean­ing no ac­tion would be taken on a prop­erty un­til some­one com­plained about it. Porter asked if the depar tment gets many calls about oc­cu­pied homes.

“We do get some calls about oc­cu­pied houses that look sim­i­lar to aban­doned ones,” Free­man said.

Free­man also pointed out the bill did not nec­es­sar­ily call for a blighted prop­erty to be taken over, but the nui­sance abated.

The county’s build­ing code al­ready has an un­safe struc­tures or­di­nance, said County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Ken Decker.

“The un­safe struc­tures or­di­nance in the build­ing code pro­tects oc­cu­pants from the struc­ture,” Decker said. “(The pro­posed bill) would pro­tect the gen­eral pub­lic from a prop­erty, by addressing those that are de­valu­ing oth­ers.”

Com­mis­sion­ers said they would like to sched­ule a work ses­sion soon to be­gin work­ing on new leg­is­la­tion.

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