Fixing up the Neighborhoods: Part Two: Drunk and Loud, Shut it Down
Earlier, in our discussion of what the city should and should not do to help deal with the potential blight of absentee landlordism and other problem properties, city resident John Roach told us to take a look at what he called the "Slum Lord" control law. Roach said that this law was proposed in 2005, then tabled, never to return again. We asked the city for this law, and the office of the clerk responded quickly and courteously, sending us a copy of the proposed law with the note that the law had "failed" at a meeting of the City Council on December 12, 2005.
We have telephone City Councilman Frank Ferrando twice, yesterday and today, left two messages and sent him an e-mail to inquire more about this law, and get his thoughts on how the city ought to handle the problem. Ferrando was president of Council when that law "failed" in 2005.
We thought some further conversation on the issue might benefit if we took a look at some excerpts from that "failed" proposal. Before we do so, let me sum up what I found in the law: This law does not seem aimed at controlling properties in decline due to absentee landlordism, otherwise known as slum lord properties, as has been suggested by John Roach. Rather, it seems to concern properties that are frequently cited for loud noise and drunken reveling.
That being said, let's first look at the reasons outlined in the 2005 proposal for instituting such a public nuisance control law:
The City Council, after public hearings, finds that there is an increasing use of real property within the City of Batavia for the purpose of flagrant violation of the penal and alcohol, beverage control laws as well as the codes of the City of Batavia relating to continued violations of the law.
The City Council finds that this situation seriously interferes with the interest of the public in the areas of quality of neighborhood life and environment; diminution of property values; safety of the public upon the streets and sidewalks; and increasing costs of law enforcement as a result of these illegal activities.
The City Council, therefore, finds it in the public interest to authorize and empower the appropriate city officials to impose sanctions and penalties for such public nuisances as an additional and appropriate method of law enforcement in response to the apparent proliferation of these public nuisances without prejudice to the use of any other procedures and remedies available under any other law.
Making sense of the legalese that follows is an arduous task. But this much we've figured out. This law gives city officials the right to act against "public nuisance" properties. Quaified as "public nuisance" properties are those that violated specific statutes—typically on two, three or four occasions—of either the state penal code, the alcohol beverage control law or city code (dealing with alcoholic beverages and noise).
Importantly, there are no details regarding problem properties that are not "kept up"—where the grass is waist high and the lawn is littered with trash, for example. That is, this law treats only those properties which are drunken and/or noisy.
So what happens to these properties if they are found in violation?
In addition to the enforcement procedures established elsewhere, the City Manager, or his designee, after notice and opportunity for a hearing, shall be authorized to:
A. Order the discontinuance of such activity at the building, structure or place where such public nuisance exists; and/or
B. Order the closing of said building, structure or place to the extent necessary to abate the nuisance, as prescribed below.