On April 23, the City Council approved a change to enhance the city’s powers to abate nuisances. The changes include adding definitions of “chronic” and “abandoned” nuisances, amending the procedure for the noticing of violations, defining an appeals procedure and adding a provision enabling the city to levy a special assessment against a property to recoup the cost of abating a nuisance that the property owner fails to abate.
The city’s staff report on the issue reads, “As the number of defaults and foreclosures has risen, the city has encountered more cases of property owners failing to respond when contacted by the city’s code enforcement officer. Some of these properties present an immediate hazard to public safety and welfare. Others represent chronic nuisances that demand a disproportionate amount of the city’s single code enforcement officer’s time. In other cases, the property has effectively been abandoned or the legal owner is unreachable and/or unresponsive. Such properties may not only pose a public danger or are unsightly but are detrimental to the neighborhoods in which they are located. Given these circumstances, this ordinance to amend Chapter 7.16 of the Sparks Municipal Code would provide the city the ability to directly abate a nuisance and levy a special assessment against a property owner to recoup the cost of abating the nuisance.”
City Councilman Ron Smith said fire and health hazards stem from many of these properties, which also invite transients looking for shelter if they are abandoned.
The change to the code requires that the property owner be served a notice of violation by certified mail at their last known address. It also allows the property owner to either request a hearing before the city manager or his authorized representative within 10 days or abate the public nuisance within a prescribed time.
If the City Council requires abatement of the public nuisance, the staff report says, the owner must abate the nuisance within 10 days or as otherwise prescribed by the council. The city can abate the nuisance if the owner does not do so and if no appeal is filed. Then, the city can levy a special assessment to recoup the cost of abating the nuisance. This option is in addition to the existing lien mechanism or making the costs a personal obligation of the property owner. An advantage of a special assessment is that it may be collected at the same time and in the same manner as property taxes, according to the city.
The city has plans to hire a second code enforcement officer in its proposed 2012-2013 budget.