Nuisance Ordinance Aims to Give Oil City ‘More Teeth’ in Property Cleanup Push

| May 25, 2019

OIL CITY, Pa. (EYT) – The Oil City Council discussed a possible new ordinance to help clean up the city on Thursday evening.

A new property nuisance ordinance, specifically addressing buildings that could endanger safety or health, will be up for consideration at the next council meeting in June.

According to city solicitor Bob Varsek, if a nuisance was reported, the new ordinance would allow a city department to be placed in charge of investigating the issue. That department would then determine whether or not the property created a safety or health concern and if it contributed to depreciating the value of other nearby properties.

The ordinance would apply to two situations. In non-emergency situations, the landowner would be given prior notice which would give the property owner a 30-day time period to deal with the nuisance themselves, but if they fail to do so, after 30 days the city can step in and abate the property for the public nuisance.

In more emergent situations where a building begins to pose an immediate safety hazard, such as a building caving in, the city would be able to handle the property in a procedure known as a summary abatement.

The ordinance will also provide an appeal mechanism for property owners who disagree with the city’s assessment, as well as mechanisms for providing notice of the cost of the abatement and civil penalties for repeated offenses.

According to Varsek, the law also provides that the person who is the owner of the property at the time of the abatement is personally liable for all charges and civil penalties.

It will also include a mechanism for extensions of the 30 day period for a property owner to deal with a nuisance issue.

“So showing they’ve done something in the first thirty days, we can then give them more time,” Mayor Bill Moon noted.

City Manager Mark Schroyer asked if the ordinance could give the city “more teeth” in regard to code enforcement.

“It does because it gives you the right to hold property owners personally liable,” Varsek stated.

“It will come into play more so with some of the larger problem landlords that have other assets that pick and chose and as a property dies on their holdings they just walk away,” council member Ronald Gustafson noted.

“It’s a move in the right direction, anyway,” Schoryer said.

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