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COLUMBUS — City officials hear about nuisance properties on a regular basis.

Some even have firsthand experience with the frustrating process of reporting and trying to alleviate an issue.

Councilman Rich Jablonski, for example, wanted to get a “huge glob” of hardened concrete removed from the parking lot behind his downtown business after workers repaired a damaged telephone pole. He was concerned the concrete chunk could damage a vehicle, but didn’t have much luck tracking down a responsible party to have the problem addressed.

“Those are the little nuisances that we have that we have no control of,” he said during Monday night’s city council meeting.

“It’s a problem, but we have no ability to tell them to do anything,” Jablonski added.

City Administrator Tara Vasicek understands his concerns.

She’s received several nuisance complaints since starting her job in Columbus in February.

The problem, she said, is the current city code handcuffs officials trying to address some of those problems since it’s limited to residential properties.

“Columbus has a pretty unique code right now in that the nuisance only applies in residential zones,” Vasicek said. “So that has created a little bit of an issue for us.”

“There are nuisances around the community that essentially we cannot address, we have no authority to address,” the city administrator added.

Council members amended the nuisance code in 2009 to only include residential properties, although nobody can remember exactly why that decision was made. Community Development Director Dan Curtis referred to the change as an “oversight” during Monday night’s discussion.

Now they’re looking to reverse that decision as part of an increased effort to clean up nuisance properties across the city.

A proposed change would allow city officials to address nuisances throughout Columbus and its 2-mile zoning jurisdiction, regardless of how the property is zoned.

Vasicek is also recommending the city adopt the International Property Maintenance Code, which would outline the minimum maintenance requirements for buildings, and shift a full-time community service technician from the police department to the community development department to focus strictly on nuisance and property maintenance issues.

The goal, she said, is to “make life better in Columbus” without hindering development.

The changes would give city employees the authority to inspect properties while enforcing “more specific” standards.

Vasicek 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,” she said.

Councilman Ron Schilling called the revamped nuisance code a “good start,” saying it will make people more aware of property maintenance issues and create a better-looking community.

“I think 95 percent of the people will gladly get on board with it,” he said.

The city is also proposing changes for general contractors, electricians and plumbers working in Columbus.

General contractors would be required 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.

Electricians and plumbers, who are already required to obtain a city license, would need $1 million in liability insurance coverage instead of the current $5,000 bond.



Tyler Ellyson is editor of The Columbus Telegram.

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