KENNETH CITY — A couple of months ago, residents crowded into a Town Council meeting to protest the passage of strict rules governing the upkeep of houses and other property.
The proposed rules are back, with a couple of changes. The word "moral" has been taken out. The term "probable cause" has been defined. And a page has been added. The ordinance is now 26 pages instead of 25. And, rather than giving it final approval, the council has decided to start over. The ordinance is to receive tentative approval tonight.
Although changes have been made, other sections are just as tough as in the original version. It still covers the interiors of homes and other buildings:
• A "nuisance" is defined, among other things, as something that "offends decency, or is offensive to the senses or ... in any way renders other persons insecure in life or the use of property."
• Doors and windows must be free of cracks and other flaws, and if glass is broken, the window opening can be boarded for 60 days. "When boarding is used, it shall be of trim fit, sealed to prevent water intrusion, and painted or stained to properly conform with the other exterior portions of the building."
• "The exterior surfaces of all premises and every structure on the premises ... shall not show evidence of deterioration, weathering, discoloration, ripping, tearing, or other holes or breaks. ... All other surfaces shall be maintained free of broken glass, crumbling stone, asphalt, brick or stucco, or other conditions reflective of deterioration or inadequate maintenance."
• "All exterior surfaces, which have been uniformly painted, shall be maintained free of peeling and flaking. Where large areas (greater than 1 square foot) of the aggregate of any painted wall shall have peeling or flaking or previous paint worn away, the entire wall shall be repainted. Patchwork painting shall be prohibited."
• "The owner of a building shall promptly repair any broken door, window or other opening by securing the necessary building permits so that a temporary boarded up condition is limited. Any such repair must be completed within 30 days from the time the boards are installed."
"Mainly why we're doing this is all these people complain so much and you have to listen to them," Kenneth City Mayor Muriel Whitman said.
Whitman conceded that much of what the proposal bans is covered by existing rules. But this, she said, "gives us something we can enforce."
Enforcement is where some of the objections lie, however. One of the clauses gives enforcement power to the "building official or police chief or designee."
It also provides that, given probable cause, the investigating official can enter the property. If the owner refuses and it is not an emergency, the town can get a court order to enter the property. If it is an emergency, then the investigating official does not have to wait.
Whitman said officials would only want to enter a home in extreme circumstances, such as reports of rats running in and out. She predicted that officials will not use that provision often, if at all.
Whitman had one more prediction: A large crowd is likely to attend tonight's council meeting.