Thursday, May 10, 2001

City gets tough with blight

Covington task force deals with vacant, neglected properties

By E.K. Meister
Enquirer Contributor

        COVINGTON — A loud and clear message is going out to property owners in Covington: clean up your act or the city will do it for you.

        City Commissioner Alex Edmondson announced at Tuesday night's legislative caucus meeting the creation of a Deteriorated Properties Task Force to deal with property that is either vacant and/or neglected.

[photo] The building at 12th and Russell streets is among the blighted properties Covington could seize by eminent domain.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        The task force and an active new code-enforcement board are part of Mr. Edmondson's plan to revitalize Covington. “We're either going to get these owners up to code or get them out,” he said.

        He has also called for the city housing staff to create a list of vacant properties in the city that are the worst eyesores. These will then be targeted for either rehabbing first, or demolition.

        The code-enforcement board, created in January, issues violation notices to property owners who do not keep their land and buildings up to the specifications.

        On Wednesday, the board discussed the most recent violations it had issued — some of which can carry a $100-a-day fine.

        Appointed by Mayor Butch Callery for three-year terms, the six-member panel consists only of Covington residents. And virtually all of its actions take place because of citizens' complaints, said Elaine Hollis, a code-enforcement officer.

   Kentucky's definition of blight (Kentucky Revised Code 99.700), is “property that contributes to disease, crime, and loss by fire and accident.” The effects of such property, according to the code, are increased maintenance expense, impairment of the growth of the community, lowered property values, and heightened challenges to the “health, the well-being and the dignity” of residents.
   City Commissioner Alex Edmondson said the fire, police and housing departments will collaborate on the code enforcement and revitalization project. He also requested Tuesday that city staff be committed full time to completing the vacant property list and researching the legal aspects of possible foreclosures.
        Infractions dealt with at the code-enforcement board meeting Wednesday night ranged from animal droppings and garbage in yards to more serious issues such as sliding retaining walls, broken windows and collapsing roofs. Most of what Ms. Hollis hears about, though, is unmown grass and cracked paint.

        The average penalty doled out by the board Wednesday was $100 per day.

        However, the board suspended fines and offered extensions to those called into the hearing by inspectors.

        Code-enforcement officer Roger Bell said once a complaint is filed, an officer investigates and then sends a notice where it's warranted. If the owner complies, charges are dismissed at the assigned hearing. If not, the owner is fined.

        If the owner doesn't pay, the city places liens on the property. If the owner then abandons the property, the city can foreclose on it.

        The board has issued 66 violation notices to Covington property owners.

        The board has not issued any foreclosures. However, Covington has placed an advertisement to hire a lawyer to deal exclusively with them, officials said.

        The next Code Enforcement Board meeting will be 5 p.m. May 23 in commission chambers in the Covington City Building, 638 Madison Ave.


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