MEMO TO: Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners
FROM: Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager
SUBJECT: Ordinance Amending Chapter 9 – Nuisance Abatement - of the Code of Ordinances to Clarify Procedures for Unsafe Buildings
The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider the attached ordinance amendment that would result in the Town’s reliance on applicable NC General Statutes to formally address unsafe buildings in Emerald Isle. The attached ordinance amendment eliminates previously adopted provisions in Chapter 9 – Nuisance Abatement that grouped unsafe buildings with the process for other, less serious nuisances. The Town’s reliance on the applicable NC General Statutes would result in a simpler ordinance and a more defensible process for these situations.
As noted in the attached ordinance amendment, the Town would simply rely on NCGS 160A-426 through NCGS 160A-434 for unsafe buildings. A copy of those statutes is attached for the Board’s information, and essentially spells out the following process:
- building inspector posts notice on structure declaring it unsafe (due to structural issues, electrical issues, severe deterioration, etc.);
- if property owner does not take prompt corrective action, notice is sent outlining the concerns, requiring repair, closing, or demolition of the structure, and scheduling a hearing within 10 days;
- hearing is conducted, and building inspector then issues formal order providing up to 60 days to repair, close, or demolish the structure;
- property owner may appeal the formal order to the Board of Commissioners if filed with Town Clerk within 10 days of formal order; if no appeal then the order is final, and if appeal is filed it is conducted as soon as possible thereafter by the Board of Commissioners who may affirm, modify, or revoke the order;
- if the property owner fails to comply with the order by the deadline, he / she is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor and the Town also has the right to take corrective action, including demolition at Town expense;
- Town may place a lien on the property to recover any expenses associated with the unsafe building.
This process is used very rarely by the Town, and has not been used for several years until recently. The Town recently issued a formal order to the owner of 7405 Archers Creek Court, and used the process outlined above (in the NC General Statutes). In that particular case, due to the upcoming holidays and due to the property owner’s particular circumstances, a total of 90 days was provided for the owner to comply with the order. (The owner now has until December 31, 2015 to repair or demolish the structure.)
The Board should note that the attached ordinance amendment also includes one additional step at the end of the process that is not included in nor is required by the NC General Statutes. After the deadline to comply with the formal order has passed, and before Town staff take action to demolish a structure, we have included a final review by the Board of Commissioners to confirm the demolition of the structure. This additional step is included for two reasons: 1) because it involves the expenditure of significant Town funds which may not be recovered for several months or years through the lien process, and 2) because of the serious and final nature of demolishing someone’s home, and our desire to provide maximum opportunity for the property owner to plead his / her case. The final review / confirmation by the Board of Commissioners would occur at the first regularly scheduled meeting after the deadline has passed.
As intimated earlier, the Town’s use of this process is expected to be very infrequent. In nearly all cases, Town staff first attempt an informal, cooperative process with the property owner. This approach usually results in the desired effect, and there is often no reason to move forward with the formal process. In some cases, mostly due to financial hardship, differences of opinion among multiple owners, or indifference, the owner(s) do not respond to the informal process and it is necessary to move forward with a more formal process. The attached ordinance amendment and the applicable NC General Statutes outline that process.
The Board should also note that Chapter 9 – Nuisance Abatement already includes ordinance provisions requiring proper exterior maintenance of buildings in Emerald Isle, and includes requirements for property owners to adequately maintain roofing, siding, windows, and other features that if not maintained properly may lead to more serious deterioration. The intent of Article IV – Property Maintenance in Chapter 9 is to address these issues early, and hopefully prevent the need to ever declare an unsafe building.
I look forward to discussing the attached ordinance amendment with the Board at the October 13 meeting.