After meeting with several hotel and motel operators in Richmond last week about their concerns with the recently passed chronic nuisance property ordinance, the city commission voted to approve a new ordinance, including amendments in several areas.

The original ordinance was designed to impose a civil fine on hotels and motels that are found to be a consistent problem within the community.

In the ordinance, a chronic nuisance property is defined as a "hotel or motel establishment on which three or more nuisance activities exist or have occurred during any 90-day period, or on which 12 or more nuisance activities exist or have occurred during any 12-month period."

Nuisance activities, which constitute a wide range of criminal activities, can be deemed by a police officer or a member of the code enforcement department. Some of those activities include public intoxication, disorderly conduct, assault, drug possession, drug trafficking and overdose.

During the previous workshop discussion regarding the amendments, City Attorney Garrett Fowles said that some of the suggested changes were warranted, as they sometimes could be out of the property owners hands. For example, he said that in the original ordinance, hotel operators would be held liable and in violation if a customer being arrested was resisting arrest or using a false identity.

In addition to that, hotel and motel operators asked if an owner or manager themselves call about a crime taking place, if it would have an adverse effect on them.

"Obviously we do not want owners to be fearful of contacting the police when they need our help for fear that they are setting themselves up to be fined later on down the road," Fowles said at the previous meeting. "So the second amendment that is in there makes it so that if we are called to the scene by the owner or operator, they are not in violation."

Aside from the operators' view, officers of both Codes Enforcement and the Richmond Police Department expressed administrative concerns to the commissioners, which prompted the final amendment.

In ordinance 19-16, the amount of days in which a property owner is notified about their violation was extended from 20 to 45 days, allocating more time for codes enforcement and the police department to do administrative work.

"We want to thank all of the hotel and motel owners that expressed their concerns," Mayor Robert Blythe said Tuesday night. "This is still a work in progress, but we appreciate the work of the community."

In other business, the commission approved the first reading of ordinance 19-17, which amended a portion of a chapter pertaining to the city's code of ordinances to the existence of various nuisances.

With this ordinance, the city has decreased the number of days for property owners to address code violations from a span of 10 to five in order to have the fine associated with the violation removed.

The amendment reads, "The notice shall state if the nuisance is abated within such reasonable time as is set forth in the notice, the assessed fine shall be waived; provided, however, that it shall be the obligation of the owner, if the owner desires that the fine be waived, to present to the Codes Enforcement office in Richmond City Hall, and within five days after the expiration of the abatement time set forth in the notice, satisfactory proof that the nuisance was abated within the specific time."

Other business

• The Ad Valorem Tax for personal property was set at a rate of 16.8 cents on each $100 worth of property. The tax for real property for the general fund was approved for a rate of 14.5 cents on each $100 worth of property.

• The commission accepted resignations from David Johnson with the Human Rights Commission, as well as Tyler Johnson from the Architectural Review Board.

• Whitney Maupin submitted his retirement from the Richmond Police Department to the commissioners, which they accepted Tuesday night.

• Amber Slone was approved by the commission for a position in the Section 8 Housing Department.

• John Buford was re-appointed to the Richmond Utility Board for a four-year term.

• Jason Wilson and Charles King were promoted to a new position of fire prevention inspector.

The next Richmond City Commission meeting will be Sept. 10, 6 p.m., at Richmond City Hall, 239 W. Main St.

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.

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