COLUMBUS — Columbus City Council members took a step this week to crack down on nuisance properties.
The council voted 7-1 on Monday to amend the nuisance ordinance so it includes all properties within Columbus, including those zoned as county, and the 2-mile zoning jurisdiction outside city limits.
Previously, the nuisance rules applied only to residential properties within the city limits.
Mayor Jim Bulkley said the change will add “teeth” to the city’s nuisance enforcement abilities since no property will be exempt from the ordinance.
City officials regularly receive complaints from citizens about nuisance properties, he said, and this will give them an “effective arm” to address those concerns.
Council members amended the nuisance code in 2009 to only include residential properties within the city limits, although nobody could remember at a June meeting exactly why that decision was made. Community Development Director Dan Curtis referred to the change as an “oversight” during that discussion.
The only person opposed to the updated nuisance ordinance was Councilman Dennis Kresha, who doesn’t like the idea of extending the rules to the city’s 2-mile zoning jurisdiction.
“We have plenty of nuisances within the city limits for the CSTs to take care of without them worrying about problems 2 miles outside the city limits,” he said, referring to the community service technicians (CSTs) tasked with enforcing nuisance violations for the police department.
“They’re busy enough trying to take care of the problems we’ve got now,” Kresha said.
City Administrator Tara Vasicek said the CSTs won’t be actively patrolling outside the city limits to spot potential nuisances.
Most nuisance violations start as citizen complaints, and Vasicek said she’s received “numerous complaints” about properties just outside the city limits since taking over as city administrator in February.
“It does affect Columbus and the perception of visitors,” she said.
Vasicek is also recommending the city adopt a property maintenance code that outlines the minimum maintenance requirements for buildings and a full-time CST will be shifted from the police department to the community development department starting Oct. 1 to focus strictly on nuisance and property maintenance issues.
She previously said the city will start by targeting the worst problems, most of which are vacant properties.
“Probably 90 percent of the ones that we’ll address in the first year or two are vacant,” Vasicek said in June.
Although city officials are taking steps to address nuisances, Bulkley also noted that it’s not a quick process that produces overnight results.
“Keep in mind some of this is still going to take a long time,” he said.
The council also approved an ordinance change Monday night that requires general contractors to register with the city — at no cost — and provide proof that they’re covered by liability insurance. This ensures the city has some recourse should a problem arise.