STANFORD — Lincoln County magistrates heard the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday that adopts a new state law regarding nuisance properties as the county’s own.
Officials say it will make it easier to force action on eyesore properties by putting the onus on violators to clean up their mess or pay to have it cleaned up.
County Attorney Daryl Day explained that under the proposed ordinance, the county’s nuisance investigator can cite an owner whose property has become unsightly and the owner will have 30 days to appeal the citation to the nuisance board. If the citation is ignored, the county can send in a crew to mow down long grass and weeds, and remove junk, and otherwise improve the appearance to an acceptable level.
The property owner then is billed for the work. Failure to pay within another 30 days will result in a lien being filed against the property and possible foreclosure, Day said.
“It really improves how our nuisance board works and how we can get things cleaned up,” Day said.
Under the existing ordinance, the county has to file a civil complaint in circuit court if a property owner fails to act on a nuisance citation.
Magistrate Joe Stanley asked what would happen in the case of an elderly person who was unable to care for their property the way they used to. Day explained the proposed ordinance allows the flexibility to deal with each case on an individual basis and that property owners who respond to a citation and make an effort to come into compliance will be given a lot of leeway before action is taken.
“We don’t want to have to take over and sell a bunch of these properties, we just want them cleaned up,” he said.
Day said the recent large number of home foreclosures in the county and across the state prompted the tougher stance on nuisance properties. Large, out-of-town banking operations such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo own many of the properties in question and have been reluctant to spend money to keep them mowed and looking good, Day said.
“This has really come to the forefront because of all the foreclosures in the last couple of years,” he said.