Laurel officials are attempting to put teeth into an existing property maintenance requirement that up until now has no enforcement guidelines. During the recent meeting of Laurel Mayor and Council, the council adopted the first reading of a proposed amendment to the town’s ordinances covering the maintenance of curbs, gutters and sidewalks.
Town Manager Jamie Smith said the town uses the “International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC)” as a guide for ordinances relative to property maintenance issues including brush, grass and weeds. The IPMC establishes minimum requirements for property maintenance that municipalities and other entities use for consistency in code enforcement. She said that while the town ordinances do include reference to the IPMC’s guidelines for maintaining curbs, gutters and sidewalks, there are no listed consequences for violation of the ordinance.
The ordinance, which is listed under Chapter 55 of the Laurel Code referring to “Brush, Grass, & Weeds, Section 4, Maintenance of Curbs, Gutters, and Sidewalks,” stipulates:
“Every owner of any area, lot or parcel of land in the Town of Laurel shall maintain his or her respective curbs, gutters and sidewalks bordering his or her parcels of land in such condition as to be clear of all growth and cuttings of grass, weeds, brush or vegetation within the curbs, gutters or sidewalks. When a specific portion of any sidewalk or driveway has a planted meridian, such areas shall be kept tidy and trim with any grass, weeds, or vegetation cut to six inches. Cultivated flowers and similar plants are an exception to this rule.”
In the first reading of an amendment to the ordinance, the council is considering the addition of language that will allow the implementation of additional enforcement fees. The new language states:
(B.) Drainage of roofs and paved areas, yards and courts, gutters, and other open areas on the premises shall not be discharged in such a manner that creates a public nuisance. The ordinance amendment would enable the town to assess an additional fee against the property owner of $99 for having “failed or refused to correct” the violation.
Smith said the town has received complaints in the past relative to the issue, but thus far investigations have found the complaints unsubstantiated. The town feels it is important to be proactive in assuring that it has the means to enforce the ordinance should it prove to be an issue in the future.
The first reading was adopted by the council and second and final reading will be held during the next Laurel Mayor and Council meeting in December.
In other council action, the Laurel Mayor and Council denied a request by the Laurel Redevelopment Corporation (LRC) to close an alley located off Front Street. In October, the LRC, which owns three of the four properties that are located adjacent to the alley, requested that the town close access to the alley.
According to the town, the LRC sought the alley closing to create off street parking for a parcel it owns, located at 102 E. Front St. Town Manager Jamie Smith said the town’s attorney initially advised against closing the alley. However, after further consideration the attorney said the town can close the alley, but would have to compensate any property owner who would be unable to have access to their property due to the closing.
The town solicitor originally advised the town could not close the alleyway, however, has since advised the town could move forward with the closure of the alleyway, but fair compensation will have to be paid to those deprived of property rights.
Smith said the alleyway is the only off-street entrance to 125 N. Central Ave. and the town would have to pay fair compensation to any owner that would be deprived of their property right to enter their property. She said it was unclear as to how much that compensation may be.
The LRC said it would allow access to the rear of the building located at 125 N. Central Ave. as needed for emergency vehicles and town personnel.
A committee was formed to review the request and presented its findings to the Mayor and Council. Committee members included Council President Chris Calio and councilpersons Jeff Hill and Jonathon Kellam.
Following its review, the committee recommended not granting the request to close the alleyway. In its report, the committee said while the property at 125 N. Central Ave. is currently vacant and has been vacant for a number of years, closing the alleyway would prohibit access to the rear of the property. This, the committee said, could potentially limit the use of 125 N. Central Ave. in the future as well as require the town to pay fair compensation to the owner of that property.
The Mayor and Council voted unanimously to deny the closing of the Front Street alley.