Council hears vacant property, code enforcement updates

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — Updates on the vacant property registration and code enforcement were reviewed Monday during Sidney City Council’s evening workshop session.

Vacant Property Inspector Kyle Havenar presented City Council with a summary on the vacant property registration ordinance since it was adopted in August 2018. He displayed several examples of properties the city, through the program, either identified or has taken some type of action upon. Havenar also proposed updates to the ordinance.

Following are the registration program’s statistics since was implemented:

• 256 vacant properties have been identified;

• 132 notices to register sent;

• 31 registered;

• 18 exemptions;

• 18 inspections completed;

• One search warrant executed;

• One appeal hearing.

Havenar said they have 37 percent compliance of the 132 notices sent.

Changes to the ordinance Havenar said they have learned needs to be made, include the following:

• To clarify the length of time for the “For Sale” exemption;

• New language to reflect how the city of Sidney can record a lien for unpaid fees. Havenar said city staff was unaware fees could not be assessed.

• Explore options to re-figure the members of the Vacant Property Registration Board of Review, given potential conflict of interest with the law director and the deputy fire chief’s vacant position.

Mayor Mike Barhorst asked Havenar if he found anything that surprised him, good or bad. Havenar told the mayor he hadn’t really found anything surprising, but that there are a lot a bad properties in the city. He said some of the difficulties he has faced has involved talking with family members of properties sitting empty due to a death. He noted that often family members are uncertain of what to do or will happen with those types of properties.

Also during the meeting, Sidney Code Enforcement Officer James Vagnone presented council with a code enforcement review comparing years 2014 through 2018.

Vagnone shared the previously reported percentages for voluntary compliance of code violations from years 2014 through 2017, which was prior to Vagnone becoming code enforcement officer, may not be accurate. The average voluntary compliance percent for years 2014 to 2017 is 82 percent. Vagnone said 50 percent, the number listed for 2018, is probably a more accurate number. He said the goal is to have 100 percent voluntary compliance for 2019.

Another goal, Vagnone shared with council for 2019 is to bring forth a junk vehicle ordinance amendment for consideration. He explained the ordinance outlines a “public nuisance” for “abandoned, wrecked, out of registration and not licensed vehicles” to stop blight and help manage the problem.

Vagnone displayed several before and after pictures of properties that needed to be cleaned up. These properties had many overgrown trees and bushes, lots of junk, trash, old tires and abandoned or wrecked cars. He emphasized there are several of these properties in Sidney and that they are a serious problem. He told council he has contacted the Environmental Protection Agency on some of these properties.

It was noted the amount of inspections were high for 2018, at 3798, despite the city was without a code enforcement officer for several months last year. This is compared to 3311 inspections in 2014, 3652 in 2015, 4142 in 2016 and 5060 in 2017. Barhorst wondered how this was possible. Community Development Director Barbara Dulworth said there are too many variable to reflect a smooth up or down of numbers. She also said although the city was without a code enforcement officer for about three months, but staff had an interim officer who was present for about two months including several weeks after Vagnone was hired.

At the end of the meeting, a local Boy Scout Troupe was recognized, for attending Monday’s meeting. Barhorst welcomed the boys and asked each young man to stand, introduce himself and share what he learned during the meeting.

Council member Steve Wagner said another Trap Neuter Release clinic was completed over the weekend. They captured 27 cats. Several were very ill, he said. He noted they were able to capture all 13 cats from one colony to stop them from reproducing.

City Manager Mark Cundiff said due to the bad weather, repair on the Ohio Building’s roof had been delayed, but the expectation is for work to begin on Thursday.

He also announced there will be a statewide tornado drill at 9:50 a.m. on Wednesday, March 20.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.