London council gives its nuisance property law more teeth

(Posted Oct. 7, 2019)

By Andrew Garrett, Staff Writer

London city council is working to strengthen the city’s ability to enforce health and safety codes on privately owned properties.

On Oct. 3, council unanimously approved an update to legislation regarding any property found to be a public nuisance, effectively giving the ordinance more “teeth.”

With the new legislation, first offenses of any violation of the International Property Maintenance Code will incur a minor misdemeanor charge and a fine of $150.

Second violations for the same offense within a 24-month period will incur a charge of a fourth-degree misdemeanor, a fine of $250, and possible jail time of up to 30 days.

The provision allows the city’s safety service director to deem properties as “nuisance” based on criteria such as the presence of vermin or necessary sanitary maintenance, send notification of intended necessary maintenance, and employ any labor to perform such maintenance. The safety service director is then authorized to bill the property owner for any labor completed and for any fees for officers responsible for serving the notice.

“Some of the changes mirror what is happening at the county level,” said Joe Russell, council president. “There’s been a number of instances in which the city has really been handcuffed in what we can do if there are properties which propose a serious and sustained threat to the public.”

One property that helped to spur the new legislation is located at 105 Park Ave., between the Cowling Park complex and the municipal swimming pool. According to Mayor Pat Closser, Madison County Public Health condemned the property earlier this year. Pacific Union Financial LLC, a mortgage brokering firm operating out of Texas, owns the property, according to the Madison County Auditor’s website.

In other discussion at the council meeting, council member Rich Hays addressed the owners of local businesses and complained of the sad state of some of their parking lots, calling out the many large potholes in Dollar Tree’s lot in particular. The store is located on Lafayette Street.

“You got a parking lot that is a piece of crap. If you want the people coming in and shopping here, fix the parking lots,” he said.

Council member Rex Castle was of like mind.

“Ask them what they’re doing with all that money they get from their tenants,” he said, referring to the property owners.

According to the Madison County Auditor’s website, DNZ LLC owns the space housing Dollar Tree. Bev Adkins, assistant manager of Dollar Tree, said the entire strip mall (excluding Kroger) is owned by the Gilbert Group out of Columbus.

“We get a lot of complaints about that,” she said. “Supposedly they (the owners) are waiting on appraisals to get the work done but who knows how long that might take.”

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