Prairie Township adopts property maintenance code

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By Andrea Cordle
Westside Editor

According to Prairie Township Administrator James Jewell, officials have been discussing the idea of a property maintenance code for several years.

“It is time to move forward,” said Jewell.

At the Sept. 21 board meeting, township trustees adopted a maintenance code specifically for the exterior of commercial and multi-family residential properties. Multi-family residential properties contain four or more housing units, like apartments or condominiums. This code does not include single-family residential units.

“There are a lot of deteriorating properties or properties that are in rough shape,” said Rod Pritchard, township trustee. “There are particularly a lot of multi-family properties that need to be cleaned up. This will allow the township to enforce the code and bring property owners into compliance.”

According to the property maintenance code, the buildings must be structurally sound. This includes foundations that are free of holes and cracks, proper building drainage, intact doors and windows. The code also addresses proper roofing, gutters, chimneys, and porches. It covers the maintenance of Dumpsters, fencing, and landscaping.

Jewell said the township has been dealing with these properties as nuisance cases, where the township would clean up the property and bill the property owner or assess the fee to the property tax. This newly adopted property maintenance code will include civil fines.

“This is another tool in the toolbox,” said Jewell.

According to the legislation, any violation of the code shall be punishable with an unclassified civil fine of $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second violation within one year, and $1,000 for the third violation within one year. These amounts also include a filing fee of $123. All the fines collected will be deposited into the township’s general fund.

“The last thing we want to do is fine property owners,” said Jewell. “We want to try to work with the property owner first.”

Anyone who is given a violation notice can request a hearing before an appeals board.

According to the township administrator, the zoning department will enforce the property maintenance code. It will not just be complaint-driven; zoning employees will be looking for violations. Jewell said there are currently four full-time employees in the zoning department.

“There will be a learning curve,” said Jewell. “We will monitor to see if we need more staff.”

The trustees believe this code will help alleviate nuisance cases.

“We are trying to get a handle on the number of nuisance cases that are coming before the board so that we can implement fines as opposed to declaring nuisances,” said Pritchard.

At the board meeting, the trustees had to review and act on a few dozen nuisance cases, mostly involving overgrown grass or weeds and trash and debris on the property or by the Dumpster.

“There will be a lot less nuisance cases,” said trustee Doug Stormont.

Pritchard added, “Hopefully, this will lead to a lot of good things.”

The exterior property maintenance code will go into effect near the end of October, but Jewell said full enforcement will not begin until the start of 2023.

“We see this as an opportunity to educate property owners,” said Jewell.

He said within the next few months, the township will reach out to property owners, so they are aware of the new code.

“We want to make sure everyone is on board,” said Jewell.

To view the township’s exterior property maintenance code, visit www.prairietownship.org.

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