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Clean up or pay up

August 6, 2010

One residential property in Maiden was cleaned to rectify nuisance ordinance violations, and additional violating properties are under investigation.
“We don’t mess around,” said Sam Schultz, Maiden planning director. “We send out a letter, and we’re coming.”
Maiden recently implemented a public hearing based-process to clean and rectify properties in violation of the town’s nuisance ordinance.
“Maiden takes a lot of pride in itself,” Schultz said. “If you have a person who isn’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing, they’re endangering the health, safety and welfare of others.”
Properties in town limits with overgrown grass and junk furniture or vehicles violate Maiden’s nuisance ordinance. Council members, town staff or citizens notify Schultz of offending properties, and he opens an investigation into the nuisances.
Prior to cleanup, Schultz compiles a case file, complete with photo documentation, of the offending property.
“The proceedings are going well,” said Maiden Mayor Bob Smyre. “It’s going to make Maiden a better place.”
Council held a public hearing at its meeting June 21 to hear evidence against an offending property at 205 Old Park Road.
The council voted unanimously to clean the property, which was overrun with grass and disassembled vehicle parts, at the owner’s expense.
The property cleanup started several days after Council’s vote. It took Schultz and two other men about one day to make improvements and remove junk to make the property compliant with town ordinances.
“We removed three wasp nests and heard and saw more rats,” Schultz said.
The cleanup required for the Old Park Road property to be in compliance with town ordinances cost $500.
“Obviously you end up with a situation where, OK, now there’s a bill,” Schultz said.
The property owner has 10 days to pay expenses incurred in the cleanup, and after 10 days, a lien is placed on the home.
The Old Park Road property is being rented, and Schultz said he has never been able to contact the homeowner.
Schultz doesn’t know if the bill for services to clean the property on Old Park Road was paid.
The entire process, from initial contact to clean up takes about 10 weeks and requires about 20-30 hours of staff work. State law requires the town to follow specific procedures and timelines when cleaning properties.
“It seems a little silly sometimes when it’s just cutting someone’s grass, but when you’re dealing with someone’s property, you want to be very cautious,” Schultz said.
The latest offending properties are located on South D Avenue and South D Avenue Extension.
“This is an economically distressed area of town,” Schultz said, adding one property has grass overgrown to 4 feet tall.
Cleanup on the properties is set to start Friday.
Maiden is willing to work with owners of offending properties to ensure ordinance compliance.
“Some things take longer than 10 days to clean up,” Schultz said. “As long as they’re working on it, we’re willing to work with them. As long as they’re showing progress.”
As ordinance violation proceedings continue, Smyre thinks the process will attract new people and businesses to Maiden.
“It will enhance the whole town,” he said. “When you’re driving through Maiden, you’re going to want to live and work there.”
Another public hearing regarding a nuisance violation at a business on South Main Avenue is set for Council’s Sept. 6 meeting. The public is invited to attend.

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