Sunday, September 14, 2008

IF I MAY.........?

If I may (or even if I may not) I’d like to respond to the latest contribution from our friends over at Freedom of Speech.


Their post this morning entitled “YOU BOYS JUST DON’T GET IT” brings up some interesting points. Many of them, I in principle, agree with. Others however I’d like to expand upon.

First things first. My take is that the Council Committee really is looking for ways to make New Albany safer, cleaner, and healthier for its citizens (children & seniors alike).

As to why the administration’s entities charged with effectively enforcing the ordinances on the books are not doing so is question I also would like answered.

My suspicion is that the answer lies in part to the lack of staff & resources.

I’m convinced after attending several public meetings on the subject that a lack of understanding of the applicable laws is in play as well.

And finally I think it goes without saying at this point that there is a lack of will (political or otherwise) to take the lid off that particular can of worms.

It is true that there are over 22,000 parcels of property listed as being within the cith limits of New Albany
 in the data bases of the Assessor, the Auditor, the Recorder, and the Platt Room computer systems.

However, that information very often does not match from one office to the next. There are in fact parcels listed as vacant lots that have (and have had for 2 years or more) houses on them.

There are in fact houses on parcels of property that the transfer of ownership has never been recorded. In other words, persons building structures on property they do not legally own at least in terms of a recorded deed transfer.

There are in fact instances (including those like the ones mentioned in the previous paragraph) where said structures were constructed without permit one being applied for much less approved by Zoning & Planning.

There are in fact cases of owners of multiple properties claiming homestead exemptions on more than one of them. Once again, my understanding of the statute is that provision is one per customer.

All of these examples add up to a loss of income (via property taxes) for New Albany. The net result is a lack of dollars available to the city for its many needs to be met.

I don’t mind paying taxes to pay for city services. As a matter of fact, I’ll gladly do so in order to retain that cozy feeling of safety when I lay my head on my pillow at night.

I do however object profusely when I find that not all are required to carry their portion of the burden because they managed to slip thru the cracks.

Are there a lot of these instances? At this point, I honestly can’t say. However one or a hundred it begs the question of “who’s minding the store?” Is the water cooler talk of favoritism more than just talk?

Answers anyone?

And just what does all this have to do with code enforcement and the call for rental property registration?

Well first of all, it explains in part why there are so few dollars that have to be spread so far. It explains in part why the work load overwhelms the staffs in place.

 I will agree that in the case of owner occupied homes, access to the responsible party is relatively easy. He/she lives in the home in question (usually).

However, in more than a few cases locating the individual(s) who have the authority to address a code violation issue for rental properties is much more difficult and time consuming.

As I have said in previous posts on this site and others as well Pam Badger, & Ron Hartman both have cited instance upon instance of not being able to locate said individual which adds weeks, months and even years to a satisfactory solution to the issue.

So as shown by other cities/towns/burgs/puddle stops around the state/country, registration of rental property and the requirement that the owner or his/her agent live either in the city or an adjacent county cuts the time, money, & resources required to solve said issues substantially.

There need not be a fee attached for registering. However failure to do so can result in some serious fines.

Registration need not be a cause of fear for those landlords that are keeping their properties up to snuff. Contrary to popular belief, I choose to think those folk are in the majority.

What it will do is shine the spotlight on those that are not (i.e.; slumlords). While I will acquiesce that “ghosts” may be and probably are hard to locate I’d submit that if efforts could be shifted to doing so instead of being spent digging thru four separate data bases to weed out the offenders from those doing the right thing, the focus of enforcement could shift and become more productive.

As I have mentioned before, after getting the registration data base in place, it will be up to the various entities of the administration to follow thru all the way to a solution case by case.

While it is true that at there may be a requirement for an additional staff person to create, administer, and keep the data in this program current, I can’t envision it being a major budget item.

Anyone with a working knowledge of Excel can put this thing together. Once in place it should not be that difficult to keep current. Assuming of course the person(s) involved want it to remain so.

To paraphrase a quote from FOS, “It ain’t that complicated Boys (Girls)”

Fair?

Yes!

Difficult?

Yes!

Impossible?

Only if the administrators choose it to be!

Only if we the people sit quietly by and allow our elected/appointed government officials to continue doing “business as usual”!!

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