Following a busy and productive Community Cleanup Day on July 19, John Day is taking a new approach to improving the appearance of city neighborhoods: proactive enforcement of the city’s nuisance ordinance.
The cleanup day was promoted on Facebook, City Manager Nick Green told the Eagle. Boy Scouts Grant Hall, Kaden Talkington and Logan Randleas and scout leaders Green and David Hall from Troop 800 volunteered alongside city crews to help clean up properties where residents were unable to do so on their own, Green said.
About 2,260 pounds of bulk waste was hauled to the transfer station from residences that participated in the event. Another six dump truck loads of yard waste were taken to a city site for future burning and disposal.
Savannah Lovell is the city’s new part-time code enforcement officer. She will also do record keeping for the police department.
The city has a lengthy and comprehensive nuisance ordinance in effect since 2015. With 10 subsections, the ordinance runs to dozens of pages in the city code. Violations are punishable by fines from $100 to $500 for a first offense and at least $250 for the second offense in the same year.
The code chapter refers to derelict structures, partially completed buildings, construction in an unskilled manner, fowl and livestock, pest control, rank vegetation, hazardous thickets, tall weeds or grass, food wastes, junk, yard debris and poison oak, hemlock or ivy.
Enforcement of the nuisance ordinance is not easy, Green told the city council July 23. When he is able to reach property owners by phone, positive action usually follows. He said he hasn’t run into anyone digging in their heels.
Some owners, however, don’t have the ability to get cleanup work done, Green said. Other times he talks to residents who do not own the property.
The worse situation is not being able to locate the owner of what appears to be an abandoned property, Green said. A house on Second Avenue has not been occupied for about five years, he said, although the property taxes are being paid.
The property lies in a legal gray area between foreclosure and total abandonment, Green said. There is some rot and overgrown vegetation, and the roof appears to be falling in, Green said. He said he’s been unable to contact anyone who is responsible for the property.
The city has received nuisance complaints about the Second Avenue property, Green said. One option is to serve a warrant to enter the property and enforce abatement, but the city could end up paying all the legal and cleanup expenses, he said.