Residential property maintenance code approved in Prairie Township

By Andrea Cordle

Westside Editor

In September of 2022, Prairie Township adopted an exterior property maintenance code for commercial and single-family residential properties.

According to trustee Rod Pritchard, this maintenance code was instrumental in helping the township resolve the issues at the Galloway Village apartment complex.

“I believe that apartment complex, which was designated as being unfit for human habitation by the Franklin County Board of Health, would still be standing there today if it were not for that maintenance code,” he said.

With the success of the maintenance code for commercial properties, township officials wanted to extend it to residential dwellings.

After a series of open houses to gather public feedback on the plan, the trustees approved residential exterior property maintenance standards at the June 26 board meeting.

“In the past, Prairie Township would receive numerous complaints regarding homes in the township that needed the roofs, gutters, doors, windows, or siding repaired,” said James Jewell, township administrator. “The township did not have the authority to require these issues to be addressed.”

Now, it does.

According to the legislation:

  • Exterior walls and other surfaces must be free of holes, cracks, loose or rotting boards and timbers, or any other condition that might admit rodents, rain, or dampness to the interior of the property.
  • Windows shall be fully supplied with window glass or an approved substitute without open cracks or holes. They should fit in the frame.
  • Exterior doors, including garage doors, must be structurally sound, fit within its frame, and have hinges and latches that are in good working order.
  • The roof must be structurally sound and tight to prevent moisture. Roof drainage shall be adequate to prevent rainwater from causing dampness in the interior of the property.
  • Gutters, downspouts, or other means of water diversion shall be properly maintained to collect and discharge water from the roof and be maintained so as not to leak or cause dampness or adversely affect adjacent properties.

“The residential property maintenance code allows the township to require structures to be kept in safe condition and in good repair,” said Jewell.

The legislation also provides residents with standards for how and where they can compost.

Feelings were mixed about the maintenance code throughout the community.

“When we (the board of trustees) started to take this on, we knew that it was going to be a difficult issue for some members in our community,” Pritchard said. “But when I ran for election, one of the number one things people wanted was a property maintenance code because they see the community going downhill in terms of the upkeep of homes and the physical structures.”

He said the implementation of an exterior property maintenance code is one way the township can address those blighted, deteriorating, or unsafe properties.

According to Jewell, the township’s zoning department staff will investigate any complaints they receive about the maintenance of a property. Zoning inspectors can also address violations if they happen to come across one while traveling through the area.

“If Prairie Township receives a complaint, or if staff sees a violation, the zoning staff will place a courtesy tag on the front door of the home,” said Jewell. “The tag will start a conversation between the homeowner and staff. After that, the commercial building and zoning department will send a violation letter stating the type of violation and will give the resident 35 days to correct the violation.”

James said if there is no progress toward the repairs, and the property is still in violation, the township would contact the courts.

“The township understands that some repairs may be delayed due to weather conditions or supply issues. We will take that into consideration for extending the 35-day requirement,” he said.

If a homeowner disagrees with the finding of a violation, they can file an appeal with the board of zoning appeals.

Jewell also said he understands that some residents may not have the financial means to make the needed repairs and said the township is looking into ways it can assist.

“Prairie Township is compiling a list of agencies that offer financial assistance or coordinate the repairs for those who qualify,” he said.

The township plans to publish an article in its next newsletter regarding the details of the code. Property owners are encouraged to contact the township with any questions. Details of the legislation can be found at prairietownship.org.

Enforcement of the residential exterior property maintenance code will begin Jan. 1, 2025.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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