As we work on finalizing our new city Master Plan and develop priorities and new goals for the city, code enforcement and occupancy of vacant buildings continues to move up the priority list for City Council.
We’ve looked at this in downtown and now through our housing committee. Council has added new tools for the monitoring and enforcement of vacant and non-compliant properties, and they have directed staff to add additional code enforcement staff starting later this summer to assist in continuing to clean up all areas of the city.
On April 4, 2019 City Council adopted a Vacant Property ordinance. The Vacant Property Ordinance establishes a program for identifying and registering vacant property within the City’s Downtown Urban Core Central (UC-C) Zoning District. The ordinance was put into place to address properties that potentially present a fire hazard, provide temporary occupancy by transients, detract from private and/or public efforts to rehabilitate or maintain surrounding buildings, or properties that present a hazard to the health, safety and welfare of the public in the downtown area.
Since the adoption of the Vacant Property Ordinance, the Division of Police’s Code Enforcement team & Economic Development’s Zoning Division have combined forces and formed the “Central Avenue Task Force”. Starting on Monday, June 16th, the Task Force will be focusing their efforts in Downtown Middletown, specifically those properties located in the City’s UC-C Urban Core Central zoning district in conjunction with the ordinance.
The Task Force will work block by block to try to make contact and work with all property owners that have any Building or Zoning code violation issues and/or permitting issues. Code enforcement issues can pertain to property maintenance concerns such as tall grass, trash, peeling paint, signage, etc.
Recently on June 4, 2019 the City Council reviewed and approved an ordinance to enact Chapter 214 (Code Compliance: Civil Offenses & Fines) and amend Sections 1436.06 (Remedial Action) and 1436.99 (Penalty) of the Middletown Codified Ordinances.
The Task Force will work with property owners in hopes to work with them and give them an opportunity to abate any code violation issues. However, if they choose to ignore the problem, they can then be cited into to court for the violation. This civil penalties are designed to give city officials an alternative to criminal court and convicting violators of a crime, but still impose a penalty. Any city official (i.e. patrol officer, code inspector, etc.) that is charged with the enforcement of the Middletown Codified Ordinances may issue a notice of violation in relation to the code that the official enforces, and then issue a civil fine to a person found not to have complied with the violation notice instead of citing them into court.
We will work with any resident or business owner to resolve their violations. There is an easy way to never get on our radar…keep your property in compliance with the codes of the city. There’s an easy way to get us to go away if you’ve received a Notice of Violation…correct the problem or work with us on a reasonable timetable to correct the problem.
There has been some concern over using new tools to clean up the city. Many of the arguments I’ve heard remind me of the concerns with the red light cameras. There was always a 100% foolproof way to never get a red light camera ticket… don’t run the light. This is no different.
Cleaning up our city is just that…we have to clean it up. Everyone. Everywhere. Over time. Work with us and we’ll all be fine and the city will improve.