What constitutes grounds for property abatement?
1. Accumulation of refuse such as materials from construction and destruction of buildings, tires, any unsightly or abandoned household furnishings including furniture designed to be indoors, all abandoned household appliances, and general household trash.
2. Motor vehicle nuisance shall exist when a vehicle parked on the property is not displaying a current registration plate and/or is inoperable. A currently tagged vehicle may be on the property for a period of 30 days while repairs are being made. A fence of adequate size and density (six foot tall and a privacy style fence) may be erected with the proper permits to conceal the vehicle from the public’s view on all directions. Construction of a fence is not a means to conceal other types of violations. Any untagged vehicle may be stored in an enclosed structure for an indefinite period of time.
3. Overgrown vegetation shall be when the weeds and grasses reach a height of 12inches; common landscape vegetation is excluded from the height restriction. The area of responsibility of the owner includes from the edge of the curb to the center of the alley or utility easement (meaning from the street curb to the center of the alley behind the residence) shall be maintained and keep free of vegetation over the height limit. The property owner is responsible for the entire property; notably what is enclosed by the fence or within the boundaries of the sidewalk.
The ordinances for the city can be viewed on the web at www.municode.com.
Great Bend City Sanitarian Gregg Vannoster challenges residents to take a quick drive around town.
“It does not take long until a yard catches your eye,” he said. “The grass forms a carpet of plush, luscious green that just seems to beckon one to take a walk on it without shoes; allowing the blades of grass to tickle the toes.”
The scene is tranquil. “One can only imagine the hours, or even the days or months it took to obtain such a picturesque setting.”
But, he said, one is also likely to see piles what appears to be trash – materials or an old car representing the owners’ unfulfilled dreams of restoration or that new family room addition, or a jungle of twisted trees and tall grass. “All of these are yards will have a person wondering how long it took to accomplish this landscape; months or even years.”
The City of Great Bend has ordinances addressing concerns about the condition of yards and how they reflect on the city’s appearance. That is where Vannoster and his Sanitation Department step into the picture.
“All properties must stay within compliance of these ordinances,” he said. “When a property is not in compliance, the Sanitarian Department will become involved.”
And they mean business.
The department is in the process of sectioning off the town in an effort to correct pending violations. So far this year, it has serviced over 340 complaints with over 200 initiated by department staff.
Many of these complaints have already been corrected by the property owners. “The Sanitarian Department will continue to serve the citizens of Great Bend by investigating complaints and taking the appropriate actions.”
In 2011, there were 584 complaints filed. Now, with Vannoster and a larger staff on board, the department is on track to more than double that number.
“I hit the ground running,” he said. “We want to get this town cleaned up.”
Reports keep coming in to his office. “I have job security for while, that’s for sure,” he said.
What happens with a complaint?
Once a property has been reported to have a possible violation, Vannoster said a staff member will inspect the property. If no problem is found, the complaint is closed.
However, if a valid violation is observed, a chain of events ensues, he explained. First, a complementary letter is sent to the last registered owner of the property as recorded on the Barton County Property tax record. This letter is to inform the property owner of the violation and provides five days for the property owner to take action and correct the violation.
If no action is taken, a certified letter is then sent, once the letter is picked up the property owner has 10 days to correct the violation. If no action is taken, the property is placed on the agenda for the next City Council Meeting where the property owner can make a plea to the Council in regards to the property.
The City Council will vote if an abatement is to be carried out on the property. If it is approved, a copy of the signed resolution is posted on the property and the property owner will have one week to bring the property into compliance.
“If no action is taken to correct the violation, the Sanitarian Department will correct the violation and all costs will be billed to the property owner,” Vannoster said. This process will be halted at any time if the property is brought into compliance by the owner.
Vannoster then outlined what constitutes a violation. It can include an accumulation of refuse, or trash, an inoperable or untagged vehicle or overgrown vegetation.
However, when it comes to dilapidated houses and other buildings, it becomes the bailiwick of City Building Inspector Lee Schneider.