SEASIDE - A controversial ordinance that would have required Seaside property owners to clean up their yards or face a penalty was denied unanimously by the Seaside City Council Monday night.

But while that specific ordinance might be dead, the City Council will conduct a workshop to discuss a possible alternative. The meeting date hasn't been set.

More than 50 people turned out at the City Council meeting to protest the ordinance, which, after receiving two readings at the last meeting, needed only a third reading to become a city law.

Of the 20 people who spoke, only one said they liked the proposed ordinance. Others called it "mean-spirited" and too dictatorial.

"There is nothing in the ordinance that is optional or suggested," said Mike Harrison, who lives in the Sunset Hills area. "You are telling people what to do. You are trying to make them do it by holding a hammer over their head. ... If you want to change their property, buy it."

The property maintenance ordinance would have required residents to repair deteriorated and unsightly buildings, driveways, sidewalks and parking areas that could cause depreciation of surrounding properties.

It also required the removal of junk, including tires, lumber, household appliances, furniture and inoperable or excess vehicles.

In addition, any condition that, in the opinion of a community service officer, constituted "visual blight" that would affect surrounding property values would have been subject to the provisions of the ordinance.

Property owners could plead their case to a three-member citizens board of review and appeal the board's decision to the City Council. If the violation was deemed to be valid and the property owner did nothing, a municipal judge ultimately could impose a fine of up to $700 per day for every day the property wasn't cleaned up.

Several speakers said the potential $700-per-day fine contained in the ordinance was too much, and they worried that their homes would be bulldozed if they were unable to repair the problems in time.

Others said the ordinance could eventually require everyone to live in white houses and have yards all looking the same. Neighbors would only have to complain to city officials that a house in the neighborhood was affecting property values, and the property owner would be slapped with a fine, said some of those testifying.

Before the City Council voted on the ordinance, Councilor Dave Moore said he worried about how the ordinance would be enforced.

"I believe the spirit of the law is well intended by the proposers, especially the mayor," Moore said. "However, I believe the spirit may not be seen by future enforcers and residents. Thus, the ordinance could be used as a vehicle for abuse."

Moore said he would vote against it.

Councilor Tim Tolan said several people had brought up suggestions the council hadn't considered, including matching volunteer organizations and high school students with property owners needing help clearing debris or conducting citywide clean-up days.

"Whether the suggestions actually make it into the ordinance, I can't tell you that," Tolan said. "The bottom line is we all want to improve our town; we're all proud of it; we love Seaside; and we want to make it better. And we want to do it in a fair way."

Mayor Don Larson originally proposed the ordinance after receiving 275 requests to clean up the city from people attending a city "visioning" meeting. Larson said Monday that he didn't remember an ordinance "or anything we've done that's had so much misconception."

"We are not doing design review," Larson said. "We said we do not want to be 'Cannot Beach.' We don't want to paint a house a certain color. We were very cautious to look at that."

He then asked the audience two questions.

"Tell me, people. Be real with me. If we stop tonight or table this, and we had a workshop, would you bother to come?"

Many said they would attend the workshop where a new ordinance would be crafted. But the response was different when Larson asked his second question: "Do you feel we need some kind of cleanup in this city?"

"Very few of you raised your hands," the mayor noted.

After the council's unanimous vote to deny the ordinance, Larson said he was disappointed.

"We put a lot of work into it over the years, but enough people spoke, and we represent the people of Seaside, and they did not like the ordinance the way it was written," he said.

"This ordinance is really dead now. First reading, second reading, it's gone. We would have to have a new ordinance and start all over again, if we do that. We're going to go ahead with the workshop and see what happens and go from there."


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