For the residents of the Village of Genoa who haven’t had the push to clean up their yards, the village has a new incentive.
Village council has modified the municipal code section regarding nuisance property maintenance issues. Council members used the emergency provision for the legislation so that enforcement takes effect immediately rather than 30 days, Village Administrator Kevin Gladden said.
Addressing property maintenance issues was one of Mayor Mark Williams’ goals for this year.
“We have a couple of properties that have needed to be taken care of for a while,” Gladden added.
The village had an abatement ordinance involving homes and surrounding property. But that ordinance has a lengthy process, including edicts from the Ottawa County Health Department and the Allen-Clay Joint Fire District.
The revised ordinance is a simpler version that can be used to address some reoccurring problems in residential and business properties.
“It’s a generalized ordinance,” Gladden explained, “that will help us deal with a number of issues. For instance, there are places with garbage in the yard, stone piles, wood piles, junk piles and pallets.”
The new ordinance may also be used to address things such as ripped awnings in the business district.
“We have a few places we have let go for a while because the old process was so cumbersome,” Gladden said.
Village Solicitor Brian Ballenger and Ottawa County Prosecutor Mark Mulligan were consulted during the drafting of the ordinance.
Under it, the village police department will be the primary agency handling the initial cleanup efforts.
Property owners have 30 days from when the notice is served to clean up the messes. If they don’t, they can be cited for a misdemeanor in Ottawa County Municipal Court and face a fine up to $100 for the first offense.
Police Chief Bob Bratton said the village wants to work with residents before taking legal action if possible. First, officers will talk to the property owners. They will give property owners 15 days to deal with the problem before the situation is re-evaluated, Bratton said. If it’s not resolved or little to no progress is made, then the police department will issue a formal letter, giving them another 15 days to clean up before a citation is issued.
“We have 13 properties that we are looking at right now. They range from anything from a junk car to a few where there is debris. It’s just a bunch of trash lying around,” the chief said.
Contact will be made with property owners on weekends by Bratton and one of his patrol officers, Alex Espinoza.
“We’re doing this on the weekends right now. We find the people seem to be more accessible on Saturdays and Sundays so we can talk to them in person,” Bratton said. “We don’t want to really cite people into court if we don’t have to.”
The chief said he is already working with one property owner who hadn’t delved into cleanups in the past because of health issues. “He is trying to find someone to help him and we’re willing to work with that,” Bratton said.
Yet, those who continue to fight the cleanup order could eventually find themselves facing more charges and increased fines, Gladden said.
Some people in the more contested cases may pay the fine and say they’re done with it without cleaning up the property, according to Bratton, who said they’ll be cited back into court.
“We will re-cite them back into court,” he said.
The village administration is also working with the prosecutor’s office regarding the possibility of increased fines for those repetitive cases as well trying to establish a judgment entry – that is, a judge setting a date for cleanup, the chief said.
The matter boils down to an easy solution to avoid the legal snare, according to Gladden.
“The weather is starting to break now and it’s a good time to get out there and clean up your yards,” Gladden said.