The Richmond City Commission approved the first reading of a chronic nuisance property ordinance that would impose a civil fine on hotels and motels that are found to be a consistent problem within the community.
The goal of the ordinance is to hinder the recurring negative impact on properties and in which some cases, owners and managers of said properties fail to comply resulting in a financial burden on the city's law enforcement resources.
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 or overdose.
If a property has been determined to be a chronic nuisance property, codes enforcement must issue a violation, which demands an abatement plan of the issue or a good cause as to why they cannot abate.
If the owner fails to comply with such actions, the owner shall be assessed a civil fine no less than $3,000 and no more than $5,000. If unpaid after 30 days, the fine is added to the ad valorem tax bill pertaining to the property and will include penalties the same as the ad valorem tax, constituting a lien.
Commissioner Jacob Grant said with the proposed ordinance, if some owners stayed within the parameters of which nuisance activities occur, owners can still "skate by" what is set in the ordinance.
"What if we put a cap of how many nuisance complaints a single owner can have?" Grant asked.
City Attorney Garrett Fowels said the decision lies with the commission, but if they did lower the standard, it would require a re-reading of the ordinance, pushing it back two weeks -- something Commissioner Jason Morgan pushed against.
"You all know I have been pushing for this for a long time," he said. "I move that we push to adopt the first reading of this ordinance, and amend it later to whatever we decide."
Grant agreed that the ordinance needs to be in effect, but that the commissioners maybe look at lowering a cap on individual owners, thus potentially making properties a nuisance property faster than the originally designated numbers.
The commission unanimously approved the first reading.
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In other business, the commission unanimously approved the city's budget for fiscal year 2019-2020.
In the general fund, the resources for appropriation total $43,652,843 with $28.3 million in local revenue, $14.5 million coming from carried funds and $774,317 of federal assistance.
The appropriations allocated in the 2019-2020 budget totaled $29,933,808, leaving $13.7 million in the estimated fund balance until June 30, 2020.
For the contingency fund, or rainy day fund, a total of $10,282,000 has been allocated for appropriations.
The department allocated the most money within this upcoming budget was the police department with $7,433,378. Following that is the fire department with $6,722,955 in allocations. More than $5 million was set aside for "non-department funds." The parks, codes and public works departments each received more than $1 million for a total of more than $4,650,944 amongst the three.
Richmond Mayor Robert Blythe commended the department heads, city manager and treasurer for their effort on this years budget.
"It is not an easy time for any municipality to do a budget," he said.
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The commission also:
• Awarded a salt bid to Detroit Salt Co. LLC for $90.53 per ton to be funded through the city's municipal aid fund.
• Voted to approve the promotion of Matthew Powell to a training officer within the Richmond Fire Department.
The next Richmond City Commission meeting will be held July 9, 6 p.m., Richmond City Hall, 239 W. Main St., Richmond.
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.