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Published: Wednesday, 4/30/2008

Sylvania council considers nuisance proposals

BY MIKE JONES
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

Three proposed ordinances dealing with the appearance of properties in Sylvania, and another on how to deal with those short of the mark, will be considered by City Council's zoning and annexation committee.

Committee Chairman Doug Haynam said at council's meeting last week that the ordinances should be reviewed by the committee before being considered for adoption by council.

The nuisance ordinances call for tree limbs to be considered litter, for garbage cans to not be visible from the street after pickup, and for a restriction on where cars may be parked.

The most far-reaching of the ordinances and the one which has been discussed by council before, would, if approved, allow the city to go after owners of nuisance properties with civil court proceedings rather than the often-lengthier criminal process.

The administration said that the ordinance involving tree limbs isn't meant to include twigs or small branches, but large limbs or even fallen trees which have remained on some lawns for weeks.

The potential ordinance involving garbage cans led Richard Summers to tell council that his house sits on a corner lot and that the only place he could store garbage cans in a way they couldn't be seen from the street is if he kept them in his house.

Mr. Haynam said he also wanted a closer look at the proposed ordinance on autos.

The ordinance bars parking on lawns, but he noted that several residents allow parking on their lawns for a fee during the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic golf tournament presented by Kroger.

Mayor Craig Stough noted that he viewed the practice as a service and agreed that the proposed ordinance may need another look.

As the city has moved toward making violations punishable under civil actions, administrators have said they don't intend to go after minor violations, but that the existing procedure for getting rid of eyesores has been cumbersome.

Treating violations as criminal matters requires a higher threshold for a guilty finding than as a civil action.

People are generally more willing to accept a nuisance citation and pay a fine and correct the problem rather than put up a fight against a criminal action against them, according to Bowling Green City Prosecutor Matt Reger.

Bowling Green uses civil court action to go after some zoning violations and he told council last month that issues are resolved more quickly and going in that direction eases court dockets.

He addressed Sylvania's council recently and explained what he said are the benefits of using civil procedures for code violations which aren't generally viewed as criminal offenses.

Under Sylvania's proposed ordinance, violators would be issued a citation for code violations.

The code covers such areas as loose eaves, paint in poor condition, and other attributes generally thought to negatively impact a neighborhood.

Anyone cited would have 10 days to pay a fine or request a hearing by an officer who would be appointed. If unsatisfied, a person charged could ask that Sylvania Municipal Court review the issue and the hearing officer's finding.

The fine for a first citation would start at $75 and go up to $100 if delinquent. A second offense would cost $150, up to $200 if delinquent, and a third offense would be $300, and up to $350 if delinquent.

Historically, Sylvania has investigated alleged zoning infractions on a complaint-driven basis.

Council has directed the administration to begin a systematic inspection of all property in the city and when necessary cite owners for property which does not meet standards set by the zoning code, building code, or property management code of the city.



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