Lincoln City city councilors Monday evening took the first step toward ensuring Lincoln City looks as good as it can, not only for its residents but also for the many tourists who visit the community every year.
Lincoln City Police Chief Steven Bechard convinced the council to begin taking a different perspective on what are called “code enforcement” actions against those who let grass and weeds grow too tall, have substandard buildings or homes that pose a danger to either themselves or to curious children or those who let their property become junk yards.
Chief Bechard said that under current city codes, the city cannot do anything about a problem unless someone complains. But even then, he said, the process can take a year or more to remedy. Bechard said there are those who don’t have the money to responsibly take care of their property as well as those who do, but who couldn’t care less. He says 75% of code violators comply nearly immediately with a request to obey city codes while the rest pose long term enforcement problems.
Chief Bechard says that those 25% who are written a citation can challenge the citation or agree to comply with the citation but yet drag it out for months on end while it’s handled by the municipal court. He said it puts an impossible time and paperwork burden on the city’s single code enforcement officer, a situation which can give the impression that the city isn’t really serious about code enforcement or the general appearance of the city. Chief Bechard says the city does care very much about the city’s appearance and public safety and that’s why he is proposing that the city not have to wait for a complaint on a problem; the code enforcement officer would be legally empowered to see a violation and immediately write a ticket/order to comply and give it to the property owner. If the owner fails to comply, they would be remanded into court to explain why. Ultimately a failure to comply with a court order can constitute a separate action, the same as if someone fails to pay a traffic ticket for which there are added penalties.
The council told Chief Bechard that it may well be time to review the city’s code enforcement ordinances and asked him to confer with City Attorney Joan Kelsey to draw up some possible changes. When Chief Bechard and Ms. Kelsey do that they will bring them back before the council for their review which would include taking public testimony on the issue before they arrive at a final decision.