Gardner City Council members will consider updates to property codes, most likely during the second council meeting in February.
Melissa Mundt, Assistant City Administrator, told council members during a work session on Jan. 10 that many of the city’s codes are outdated. If approved, the code revision will allow a public officer to issue citations for property code violations.
The update would also change some of the city’s property standards, Mundt explained.
“This is all how your neighbor affects you,” she said.
For example, noxious weeds or uncut lawns would now be allowed to grow to 8-inches. Currently, once a lawn reaches 6-inches, city staff issues a letter requesting that the lawn be mowed. If the resident or property owner doesn’t correct the problem, the city may mow a resident’s lawn and then add a lawn service charge to the tax bill. Under the revision, lawns could grow a little higher before the city abated the problem.
The new code would also address clearing sidewalks and driveways following a snow storm. Currently, property owners are asked to clear drives and walks five hours after a snow storm. Mundt said right now, snow removal codes aren’t enforced.
That’s a cultural thing, she said. In Iowa, where she grew up, Mundt said everyone was expected to have sidewalks cleared within eight hours of a snow storm.
“No one scrapes their sidewalks here,” she said. “That’s not how it was where I grew up.”
Under the proposed changes, a home owner would have 24 hours to clear snow.
“This is so school children can walk to school,” she said.
The changes would prohibit the burning of yard waste, which is allowed under the existing code.
Mundt said city staff is recommending that right be disallowed, because other cities in Johnson County have already banned it.
The changes also provide rights of entry onto private property if there’s a violation. Mundt said new language would allow city officials to enter a property to talk to owners.
“This sets up that ability – for us to have a way to obtain entry,” Mundt said. “This is standard language in most city codes.”
Currently, Mundt said if there are code-violation concerns, city officials must sometimes stand on a shed to look over a high fence in order to examine the possible violation.
If approved, most violators would receive a notification of their violation with a certain amount of time to respond.
“Then you’ll receive a citation with a date to talk to the judge,” Mundt said. “If you work with us, we’ll work with you.”
Mayor Dave Drovetta said the existing code enforcement is largely complaint-driven.
“While we have the ability to pro-actively enforce, but this will primarily be complaint driven,” he said.