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Council discusses Nuisance Code

The Newton City Council will be discussing the possibility of changing the city’s Nuisance Code Monday at 6 p.m.

For the past few months, Director of Planning and Zoning Erin Chambers has been presenting the board with some recommended changes based on what she found. Her changes were partly based on the city’s Compressive Plan, which was implemented to improve the city’s image, including curb appeal.

The proposed changes involve:

Defining property owners: Currently, there is no explicit definition of a responsible party, and what is proposed is the council clarifies that property owners be accountable for property nuisance issues. This will mean the city may be allowed to issue an enforcement order to a foreclosing bank before it takes the title of the property. This will prevent the foreclosed properties from being in an enforcement limbo.

Seed/Sodding: Currently, property owners must seed or sod their property 180 days after a disturbance or immediately if their property is causing erosion or drainage problems, and what is proposed to the council is that the city add a reference to the stormwater rules of the Statewide Urban Design Standards. If approved, Chambers believes the vagueness of the erosion or drainage problem will be set to an enforceable standard.

Wood piles: Currently, wood piles are allowable in the city as long as they are neatly stacked. What is proposed is that the council change the term wood pile to fire pile. If approved, only firewood piles will be allowed within the city lines.

Exposed tyvek wrap on structures: Currently exterior of homes must be finished in accordance with approved city plans 360 days after construction. What is proposed is the council place a 90 day limit on having wraps, such as tyvek, exposed on the exterior of buildings. The reasoning for this request is because the current standard exceeds the effectiveness time frame of the wrap products.

Removal of snow: Currently, it is unlawful to push snow across the street and what is proposed is that the council add language to the ruling, allowing the city to cite property owners who put snow in the street or across the street, without catching them in the act.

Houses of ill fame: The council will be asked to remove the following sentence from the current house of ill fame section in the city’s nuisance code because of its redundancy:

“Declares that houses of ill fame, kept for the purpose of prostitution and lewdness, gambling houses or houses resorted to for the use of opium or hashish or other illegal substances, or houses where drunkenness quarreling, fighting or breaches of peace are carried on or permitted to the disturbance of others are nuisances.”

Grass clippings: The council will be asked to add language to the prohibited grass clippings section of the nuisance code holding owners who blow grass clippings in the street reasonable without having to catch them in the act.

Garage sales: The council will be asked to place a limit on how many garage sales a property owner may have.

Campers: Currently, residents living in campers are regulated by zoning, minimum housing codes and what the council will be asked to do is approve declarations that campers not be utilized unless in an authorized campground. If approved, it will make it easier for law enforcement to issue punishment by not having to hold a stakeout to determine if a camper is being used for human habitation.

Parking on grass: Currently, all vehicles in front of a house must be on a hard surface and what is proposed is the council define that the hard surface must completely support the vehicle and extend to at least one foot beyond the full perimeter. For gravel roads, it must be at least three inches thick and free of weeds.

Storage: Currently, parking of storage trailers and boats in the street is limited to 72 hours, and what is proposed is the council makes the storage of watercraft and trailers prohibited in the public “right-of-way.”

Trailer loading: Currently, trailers are not allowed in the front of driveways, what is proposed is the council adopt a one-day exception for parking on a driveway before or after the use of a trailer to not restrict one’s ability to pack or unpack for a trip.

Tree diseases: The council will be asked to change the current Dutch tree language portion of the nuisance code to be less specific, allowing the previous ruling to be enforceable to all tree epidemics.

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