The threat of prosecution is usually enough to get a person’s attention.
Having a hammer, even a small one, available seems to be a good addition to Findlay’s nuisance complaint tool box, but we hope it’s seldom used.
Certainly, more common sense and increased dialogue between neighbors would be a better path to getting property eyesores cleaned up than taking someone to court.
For 14 years, Becky Greeno was the lone driving force behind N.E.A.T. (Neighborhood Enhancement and Abatement Team) and helped resolve most neighborhood property disputes without legal action. The process worked more often than not, but got bogged down by the volume of complaints.
In 2017, N.E.A.T. worked a total of 1,304 cases.
Now that Greeno has retired after a 30-year career in city government, Findlay’s zoning office will handle the city’s nuisance complaints.
But unlike Greeno, zoning will have the option to bring minor misdemeanor charges against those who fail to comply. While no one can go to jail for not mowing their grass, fines and court costs could result.
Zoning will enforce the city’s rules on nuisances like abandoned vehicles, tall grass, trash, sidewalk nuisances, right of way issues, dilapidated structures, junk on premises, minor maintenance and similar issues.
Zoning Administrator Todd Richard said (story, A1, May 26) that zoning will work with property owners, but charges will be pursued against those who don’t abate a nuisance.
Findlay City Council cleared the way for criminal action by setting a specific height limit on weeds (6 inches), and making it unlawful to store a vehicle that is no longer fit for use on any outside lot in Findlay. A new rule defines “junk vehicle.”
We have a feeling Richard’s phone, like Greeno’s once did, will be ringing off the hook. Unkempt properties, overgrown lawns and junk vehicles were among the most common complaints to N.E.A.T. since 2004, when the program started.
“We’re hoping eventually that compliance will be voluntary and repeat offenders will be few,” Richard said of the new program.
We would hope the same thing, or zoning may need to add staff. The new get-tough policy may be necessary to get some complaints solved more quickly, but will likely be tested.
Property rights are extremely important to those who have them. But when a property is in an incorporated area, like a city, the surrounding property owners also can have legitimate interest in the neighborhood. A neglected property can drive down property values, among other things.
But what one property owner believes is acceptable, may be offensive to their neighbor. Neighbors once talked over the fence to resolve minor disputes, but not so much anymore.
There must be enforcement remedies in order to ensure neighborhood eyesores are abated. But when neighbors have different views, rules must be implemented with fairness and consistency.
We trust Richard’s office will do just that.