Better defining nuisance

The city is clarifying its nuisance ordinance to better define and clarify the nuisance declaration process and create the ability to begin recouping some of the administrative costs to fund future demolitions. This home was condemned and razed a few years ago as a result of this ordinance.

NORTH ROYALTON – A few tweaks are being made to the nuisance ordinance in an effort to more clearly outline the process to condemn and demolish severely blighted homes and to begin to recoup some of the associated administrative costs, officials said.

Since 2012 when the nuisance ordinance was first clarified outlining the municipality’s right to demolish such dilapidated homes and structures, less than half a dozen have been demolished through the city. An equal amount have been razed by the homeowner and a few others have been repaired, removing the blight designation.

These are homes that have been abandoned and severely neglected to the point that many are infested with vermin and/or are crumbling.

“This clarifies the shortcomings in our ordinance and makes it more straightforward,” Community Development Director Tom Jordan said of the changes. “We realize demolishing someone’s property is a large step and should not be taken lightly by the city.”

Changes to the ordinance, which were reviewed in council’s building and building codes committee Jan. 17, include better defining the process relative to the steps the city takes in declaring a property a nuisance.

“A lot of this is definition, clarification and, most importantly, declaration of nuisance and blight and deteriorating properties,” Assistant Law Director Donna Vozar told council.

“There’s always been a process, but we had to be clearer. We are clarifying the ability (of the homeowner) to abate the conditions on their own, and also clarified in the event they don’t, the city has the ability to utilize its own resources to abate the conditions or demolition the structure,” Jordan added.

Because the process leading up to demolition – site visits and inspections, correspondence with owners, paperwork, etc. – is very complex, labor intensive and time-consuming, a clause was inserted to begin recouping some of the administrative costs associated with demolitions.

“Hopefully, when we do this, it will provide some money back to the city for future demos,” Jordan explained.

The county had been providing grant funding for demolitions but has indicated there are limited funds currently. The city is requesting an extension through the first part of the year to utilize grant funding it received last year but has not yet heard back.

Jordan said this is where recouping costs would be beneficial.

“But again, with this new clause about recouping administrative costs, hopefully we will be able to budget for at least one demo a year,” he said.

Having served as a law director in another community, Ward 6 Councilman Dan Kasaris said he understands fully the process and is supportive.

“I appreciate what needs to be done in order to do (a demo),” he said.

Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw lent his support and said these changes clean up some things and will only help to better assist the building department.

“No matter where you live in the city, this is an issue. I think you are doing a good job, but I think this clarifies things. I like what’s being proposed,” he added.

Ward 1 Councilman John Nickell said this is warranted especially when something as serious as a demolition of property is involved.

“When people see this, they can’t say we are picking on them or doing this willy-nilly. They can see the process,” he said.

When the city receives a nuisance complaint, the house is visited by the building department, which determines if it fits the criteria. If it does, it is then formally declared a nuisance. The responsible party or owner is contacted and has the right and ample time to contest the declaration or correct the home’s condition so it complies with city code. If the nuisance is upheld and the owner fails to respond and mend the problem, the city then has the right to raze any home it deems unsafe and all or part of the structures on that property.

The legislation remains in committee but is expected to be approved next month.

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