Last updated Feb. 12, 2020
In 2017, city of Douglas administration informed the public that city code officers would begin stricter enforcement of city code 8.32.030, which defines public nuisances. The push came after a number of residents filed complaints to the city about “public nuisances” in their neighborhoods, particularly around homes with overgrown weeds, visible junk vehicles, and unsecure abandoned and dilapidated homes.
What is a “public nuisance”?
The city municipal code, under Chapter 8, provides expectation and guidance for city-wide issues concerning public nuisance in regards to “allowing premises to become unsanitary or a fire menace or a danger to health and safety through the accumulation, growth, storage, or retention of garbage, refuse, rubbish, weeds, or other accumulation of filth or debris.”
The code requires that “every person owning, managing, or having charge, control or occupancy of any real property in the city shall not allow any part of such property visible from the street or adjoining premises to become so unsightly or untidy as to substantially detract from the appearance of the immediate neighborhood or tend to threaten the safety and welfare of the immediate neighborhood.”
What determines a dilapidated or abandoned house?
Whenever a complaint is made to the department of public works about a public nuisance, according to section 8.32.030 of the city code, the department of public works should promptly inspect the property. If the city manager, upon recommendation of the department of public works, finds that a public nuisance exists, and that the public health, safety or welfare is compromised, then emergency abatement procedures are implemented and the nuisance is removed or abated. The building inspector is then notified if the public nuisance involves a building that appears structurally unsafe. The building inspector will submit a written report of inspection and the findings to the director of the department of public works.
Potential violation complaints are inspected by Development Services staff.
At the Aug. 8, 2017 meeting of the Douglas Mayor and Council, then City Manager Jim Russell informed the public, with a 90-day notice, that the public works department code enforcement officer would begin stricter enforcement of Chapter 8 under the municipal code.
If a violation is found, a seven day correction notice is issued. If not complied with, a second seven day notice, then a thirty day notice are issued. If the violation persists the city may issue a thirty day abatement notice. Failure to comply will result in the City abating the issue and placing a lien on the property for the costs associated with the abatement.
In some cases the city may choose to secure the structure rather than fully abate. The city has no involvement in the sales of private property. The sale of property would not alter the violation or abatement status however.