WARRENTON — Last year, city leaders declared more properties in Warrenton nuisances than they ever had before.
Now the city is examining changes to the nuisance property rule to add nuance and flexibility.
“We can condemn a building or declare it a nuisance, but we don’t have anything in the middle,” City Commissioner Rick Newton said at a meeting Tuesday.
The City Commission considered a draft ordinance that would define and address chronic nuisances, derelict buildings and junk cars. The new sections would also define property maintenance standards.
The basic nuisance ordinance has allowed the city to begin dealing with properties that had long been an issue, but the staff hopes to tackle even more problem areas with the expanded code.
Mayor Henry Balensifer, while indicating he approves of the changes overall, said he was concerned about making it clear that the intent of the law is not to become a sort of “Big Brother,” policing every little thing on someone’s house or property.
The intent is to address major issues and help people whose properties are declared nuisances or are in danger of being declared nuisances before the city starts to fine them.
In general, the city has made a point of moving slowly on nuisance properties, giving people time to comply with the rules or show a good-faith effort. In several instances, City Commissioner Tom Dyer and a group of people have gone out to help property owners clean up sites.
There needs to be flexibility in the code, Balensifer said, adding “we don’t want to create a system that’s ripe for abuse.”
Kevin Cronin, the city’s community development director, agreed.
“I think we’ve been pretty good about focusing on the serious problems,” Cronin said. “We’re not going after the people with a crooked dryer vent.”