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Danville commission looks into code enforcement, possible changes

Danville City Commission discussed several different options of what they want to see with Danville’s code enforcement under Kentucky’s House Bill 422 at a special called meeting on Tuesday.
The commission has toiled over the topic of code enforcement since June 2015, and has had several presentations about House Bill 422 and the changes that can be made to the code enforcement thanks to the legislation. 
City Attorney Stephen Dexter gave the commission an outline of what the code enforcement is, what it currently does and several options of what could be changed locally.
“Essentially, the city has a code enforcement department and officers review certain situations, take phone calls and do their own evaluations and can issue citations for any violations that are perceived or known or people complain about,” Dexter said.
He explained that once a citation is made, the violators have different options. He said the violator can fix the problem — which might involve cutting grass or fixing a hole in the roof — or they can pay a fine.
If a violator refuses to pay the fine or fix the nuisance, the city can take action to fix nuisance, he said.
After the city takes care of the problem, a lien is placed on the property for the cost of the services done by city and interest can accrue on that lien. The city would get repaid when the violator refinances an existing mortgage, sells the property or the property is foreclosed on, he said.
Dexter said there have been cases when the process has taken much longer or there isn’t anything else that can be done, which can make it seem to the public like the city isn’t doing anything about properties that are falling apart or are condemned.
“This community is in need of a vigorous code enforcement — vigorous being effective, vigorous being timely — work backwards from there,” Mayor Mike Perros said. “What is the most efficient and most effective — I didn’t say cost effective, but the most efficient, most effective and most timely means of dealing with problem properties?”
There a great deal of discussion about what happens when a citation is given and what happens to the property and the violator if nothing is done.
Commissioner Denise Terry said she would like code enforcement to take a more active enforcement role rather than just operating based on complaints that are filed.
Danville’s Code Enforcement Director Bridgette Lester said code enforcement does mainly operate off of complaints that are sent in. With the limited number of code enforcement officers in Danville, they can’t go out and track down every problem, she said.
Terry recommended code enforcement officers split the city into sections that could be patrolled in sequence.
“I think the commission is looking more for that than we are the process of what happens when they do a citation,” Terry said. “I think we are looking for proactive visibility.”
Commissioners had several concerns such as making sure the city’s list of condemned properties was up-to-date and posted; what to do about repeat offenders who aren’t keeping up their property; and making sure everyone is educated and understands the codes.
Commissioners decided that code enforcement should become part of the regular commission meetings every month, with updates from Code Enforcement and a list of condemned properties. Code enforcement will be officially added to the agenda starting in December. An ordinance enacting changes to Danville’s existing code enforcement laws could be considered in December and be passed by the commission as soon as January.
SO YOU KNOW
House Bill 422, signed into law in April by Gov. Matt Bevin, will take effect Jan. 1. The new law includes several changes to code enforcement, including clarification of the authority of code enforcement boards and a creation of a lienholder notification system. To read a full summary of what the bill entails, visit legiscan.com/KY/bill/HB422/2016.