The Howell City Council is examining potential changes to ordinance dealing with code enforcement. However, it ultimately boils down to a broader policy issue on how hard the City wants to push down on owner-occupied properties.

Residents who live near a property on West Washington Street have been attending recent meetings to speak out about various issues with general upkeep of the property and junk and debris outside. They allege there are 18 cats living there, a garage always left open filled with stuff, tall weeds and grass and inoperable vehicles. A number of tickets have been issued in regard to grass mowing and weed violations, which tend to get resolved at the last minute. City staff and Council are limited in what steps they can take to address issues under current code and ordinance. Staff has been dealing with multiple code enforcement cases on the property since the current owners took title in 2014 and, but even more effort prior to that.

The City acknowledges it’s a challenging property and there has been a tremendous amount of staff time utilized on the property over the past several years. Council members commented they felt for the residents but also agreed there is a fine balance when navigating between property rights and public nuisance. Staff noted that the goal is compliance, not always tickets, and they try to be fair to all when it comes to code enforcement – although some might not necessarily be happy. Staff further noted there are equal levels of enforcement but some properties are more deserving of attention than others.

At the request of neighbors, staff brought forth options on code revision at Monday’s meeting to potentially address issues. One option is to amend the City’s property maintenance standards to incorporate the International Property Maintenance Code, which would increase the potential for code enforcement and provide some consistency. City Manager Shea Charles tells WHMI it’s a code adopted by many communities throughout the state, and developed by those who develop the state building code. Council ultimately sent the code to the Planning Commission for review and input and to provide feedback before considering adoption. Charles says the International Property Maintenance Code is much broader than current standards. He says the City has rental inspection standards, which are primarily focused on life and safety, as well as additional property maintenance standards but they’re not as broad as what is within the property maintenance code. Charles noted some of the issues brought forward by neighborhoods are things not in current code but would be addressed by the International Property Maintenance Code.

Meanwhile, an update was given on a different eyesore property in the court process. A home and garage structure at 816 McPherson was earlier deemed unsanitary and uninhabitable. Environmental remediation was deemed not necessary and court orders are in. The next step in the process is demolition and the structures should be down sometime in July or August. The cost of demolition would be attached to the property. (JM)