Environment and Infrastructure

Home Rule Cities Adopting New Powers to Target Abandoned Buildings

 

Morgan. Photo by Mark Plummer/FlickrCC

Twenty communities across West Virginia have used Municipal Home Rule authority to implement a local program of issuing on-the-spot violation notices for dilapidated buildings.

In these cities, code enforcement officials have the power to issue citations to negligent property owners in much the same way as they would write a traffic ticket. Such violations may include, but are not limited to: an accumulation of garbage, drainage issues, high weeds or grass, graffiti, open storage, or structures that present a public safety hazard.

More than half of all Home Rule communities (56 percent) have used Home Rule to authorize on-site citations.

When a local government is dealing with a blighted, or nuisance property, the code enforcement process can be time consuming, inefficient and often ineffective. This approach is the latest strategy in the efforts of many communities to battle blight, which is seen as a costly and pervasive issue in almost every county across the state.

As of March 2017, the following communities had adopted a program of on-the-spot violation notices: Grafton, Clarksburg, Vienna, Weston, Buckhannon, Elkins, Charles Town, Martinsburg, Shepherdstown, Ranson, Harpers Ferry, Lewisburg, Oak Hill, Beckley, Bluefield, Huntington, St. Albans, South Charleston, Charleston, and Dunbar.

All 20 communities requested the authority to implement an on-site citation program via the Municipal Home Rule program. There are currently 34 Home Rule communities in West Virginia, meaning that more than half of all Home Rule communities (56 percent) have used Home Rule to authorize on-site citations.

Martinsburg was able to address 62 percent of violations in a shorter period of time than through standard Notices of Violation.

In order to implement an on-site citation program, the community must also have enacted exterior sanitation and/or nuisance violation ordinances.

Martinsburg and Elkins

The City of Martinsburg reports they have utilized the on-site citation process as a means of code enforcement to abate exterior sanitation violations and common nuisances, as well as to authorize going onto a property to abate violations.

Following a period of public education about the city’s new authority to issue on-the-spot violations, city officers reported that, through warnings and formal citations, the city was able to address 62 percent of violations in a shorter period of time than through standard Notices of Violation (NOV).

Of the 792 warnings issued by Martinsburg code enforcement officials between July 2015 and November 2016, 657, or 83 percent, complied after the initial warning. During the same period, 138 formal citations were issued, with 59 percent complying.

The City of Elkins implemented their on-site citation ordinance in July 2016 and have concluded that, “the ability of the Code Enforcement Officer to quickly address what are typically very public issues, has prompted immediate redress in most cases and ultimately, is improving the quality of neighborhoods throughout the city.”

In 2016, the City of Elkins issued a total of 16 violations. 12 of which were abated, 3 were issued and have paid fines, while 1 fine issued remains unpaid.


Who To Talk To: 

WV Bad Buildings Program
Luke Elser, Program Manager
Luke.Elser@mail.wvu.edu

Abandoned Properties Coalition
Nicole Marrocco, Program Coordinator
n.marrocco@wvhub.org

 

 

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