KENNETH CITY — Police officers and other officials will no longer have the right to come into someone's home under the newest draft of a proposed rule setting standards for the upkeep of residences and businesses.
Instead, police can haul alleged violators who refuse to comply in front of a county judge who will determine the penalty. The proposed ordinance does not specify the penalty or when the assessment of any fines would begin.
The proposal says only that anyone who violates the ordinance "shall be deemed guilty of a separate offense for each and every day or portion thereof during which any violation of any of the provisions of this article is committed or continued, and upon any conviction of any such violation such person shall be punished within the limits of and as provided by law."
The change in the proposed ordinance came after contentious council meetings and workshops where more than 100 people crowded into Kenneth City's Community Hall to object to the original draft. Although some objected to the idea of a neatness ordinance, more supported the idea but were angered at a proposal that would have allowed police officers and building officials to enter a home if they had "probable cause" to believe the interior was not up to standard. A homeowner or business owner who refused could have been taken before a judge who could have issued a search warrant.
Others also worried about elderly residents on fixed incomes and people facing hard financial times who would not be able to keep their homes up to standard.
The newest draft seeks to soften some of the original proposal's harshness in some ways.
It creates a new procedure for those accused of violations.
Under the proposal, someone who commits a "minor violation" has at least 14 days to correct it. A property owner who commits a "major or more serious" violation has at least 30 days to fix it. The enforcement officer will determine whether the violation is major or minor.
At that point a property owner can fix the situation or appeal to the town's board of adjustment, which can give up to six months for the owner to fix the violation. Those who fail or refuse to fix the problem can find themselves in county court.
Also added to the proposal is a new section covering commercial or multifamily properties. Those owners must remove any graffiti within 48 hours and must have "the surface restored to its original state."
The proposed ordinance also sets forth rules regarding parking lots, signs, lighting, stormwater drainage and landscaping for commercial and multifamily properties.
The proposal is expected to come before the Town Council for tentative approval in January. Final approval could come in February.