The North Bend Eagle


City's options in dealing with nuisances limited

by Nathan Arneal
Published 8/15/12

North Bend’s nuisances were the topic of discussion for much of the Aug. 7 North Bend City Council meeting.

Lawrence Ford attended the meeting to ask the council what is being done to address the abandon homes, unkept yards and other unsightly messes that dot the North Bend landscape.

“It’s tough for an outsider to come in and look at North Bend and see the junk,” Ford said. “It looks like we don’t care. There’s got to be a way to try to get these guys to get this stuff cleaned up, like the abandoned homes that got critters running in and out.”

The council agreed with Ford’s assessment, but the council members said that getting nuisances cleaned up is easier said than done.

Various council members explained that the city has taken steps to clean up nuisances before at the cost of thousands of taxpayer dollars. A lien is put on the property, but many of the absentee property owners are not paying their taxes either. When the property is sold at a tax auction, the city loses its lien.

“In a lot of towns this is a problem,” councilman Tim Blackmon said, “but it’s very expensive.”

City clerk Theresa Busse said that even if a vacant building is removed, it is still up to the property owner to keep up the lot. When that doesn’t happen, the lot becomes overgrown with weeds, trading one nuisance for another.

“It’s a never-ending battle,” Busse said. “You can spend thousands and thousands and you really haven’t achieved a whole lot.”

When it comes to junk or clutter on a person’s property, Busse said the law limits the city’s ability to do much.

“The lawyer said what we consider junk is someone’s personal property,” she said. “They can have it stacked up on their porch or have it all over their property. We can go after inoperable or unlicensed vehicles, but when it comes to stuff, it’s different.”

Mayor Jeff Kluthe said that once the city reaches a certain point in the process, its hands are tied.

“There is no group above us,” Kluthe said. “We have no teeth. There’s no one for us to go and say, ‘This group has all the answers.’ We get to a wall and there’s no help. There’s nowhere to keep going. We could clean it up ourselves, but we’d spend 10 grand or 12 grand every month.”

Blackmon told Ford that perhaps the only way to get something cleaned up is to have a community group offer to help with the clean up or to put a little peer pressure on property owners.

Ford said he made a list of nuisances around town, but he wasn’t going to share it with the city since apparently nothing could be done. He suggested the council start by going after the ordinances they could enforce, such as the ban against inoperable or unlicensed vehicles, tractors or car parts on lawns. The council agreed with that approach.

In other business, Cindy Limbach discussed her efforts to sell the Main Street lot occupied by the Pour House before the 2009 fire. She asked if a buyer would get a variance that would allow them to build on the lot without erecting the new structure above the 100-year flood plain, which could be as high as three feet above street level.

Kluthe said the city was all for doing what it could to help the sale and construction of the lot go through, but flood insurance premiums and federal regulations would dictate what had to be done to the lot.

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