Marlene Lynch has been working to help clean up the Woodhaven subdivision in which she lives.
Now she’s happy she has formal support from the city.
Havelock’s Board of Commissioners approved new minimum building maintenance standards during its meeting Monday night.
Scott Chase, the city’s former planning director who drafted the new standards, described the regulations as a "super ordinance" that would allow the city to go beyond high grass and weeds in demanding that property owners take reasonable care of their homes and yards.
"I fully support Scott’s efforts to try to clean up the city because we’ve been working closely with him since we started a neighborhood watch in Woodhaven to clean up our area," Lynch said during a public hearing before commissioners voted on the new rules.
Lynch said rental homes were falling into disrepair and bringing down property values in the area.
"Together with the neighbors, we have all reported to the city any of those buildings that have been depreciating, the high grass, the trash that’s bringing in the rodents, the snakes, shingles falling off, shutters that are down," Lynch said.
Chase, who recently took a new job in the private sector, came back to make a formal presentation to the board during Monday’s meeting. Commissioners requested new rules because of what they said were deteriorating structures that were causing hazards in the community and contributing to a decline in real estate values.
"Whatever we do is better than where we are," Mayor Jimmy Sanders said. "We’ve got a problem that needs to be addressed."
The new rules define varying degrees of concern that would prompt planning department members to write letters to property owners demanding that repairs be done within 30 days. Offending conditions ranged from high grass and weeds to aesthetic issues such as peeling paint and cleanliness to, at worst, actual structural issues or rodent infestations.
Property owners who fail to take corrective actions could ultimately be faced with liens on their property if the city is forced to pay for the repairs.
The new rules cover those in the city limits as well as those in the city’s extra territorial jurisdiction, that one-mile circle surrounding the city in which residents pay no taxes but are subject to city regulations.
However, Sanders questioned why the ETJ should be included in the new rules.
"With the changes that were made to annexation laws, why would you include the ETJ," Sanders asked. "Does it still make sense today for us to expend one dollar of city funds on ETJ that the state has said you can’t have?"
With that, city attorney Troy Smith recommended that the board go into closed session, citing attorney-client privilege, to discuss the answer.
After five minutes, the board returned, with Commissioner George Liner moving for a vote on the new rules, except that in three months the board would look at the ETJ issue. The board approved the measure 4-1.
Commissioner Jim Stuart voted against, saying he preferred to leave the ETJ out of the new rules, with the possibility of an amendment to add it later.
"They need to take care of what’s in town first," Stuart said Tuesday. "Don’t put it in to start with if you can’t enforce it."
"We weren’t going to be able to enforce it with the people we have right now," Stuart said, citing the small staff of the planning department.
In other business during Monday’s meeting, the board:
-- heard of changes in operating hours and policy regarding children at the city’s recreation facility on Fontana Boulevard. Recreation Director Dave Smith said that Sunday operating times would be reduced to noon to 6 p.m. and that children age 12 years or younger would have to be under the supervision of an adult inside the building.
-- heard that bids for the city’s sewer discharge pipe relocation project would be open at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
-- heard that there are 42 candidates for the vacant planning director position.
-- heard that work had started on Lee Drive as part of the city’s $487,000 street paving and maintenance project.
-- accepted $3,250 worth of computer equipment for the Havelock Police Department for use in combating Internet child sexual predators. The equipment was donated through the Havelock Moose Family Center and the Safe Surfin’ Foundation.