Talladega Council makes changes to nuisance ordinance
by Chris Norwood
TALLADEGA — The City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve some changes to the current law regarding the “vacation, removal, repair or demolition of any structure which threatens to be a public nuisance.”

City Manager Brian Muenger explained the last census said there were 6,600 homes in Talladega, with 692 of those listed as vacant. Of those, the list was broken down into “for sale,” “for rent” and “other,” with that last category accounting for 309 empty homes that were not on the market. Such buildings not only impede public safety, but also drive down the values of surrounding properties and attract criminal elements, Muenger said.

Previously, Muenger said, condemnations had been governed by two different ordinances, but the terms of these ordinances were poorly defined and did not provide adequate expectations for the city or the property owners.

The new ordinance says, in part, that, when the appropriate city official (either the building inspector or an inspector on contract with the city) deems a building unsafe to the extent that it is a public nuisance, “the official shall make a written record of the defective condition observed by the official that causes the official to conclude that the building is unsafe, untenable or dangerous. The official shall note in the written record whether the building qualifies for repair or demolition.”

The official then verifies ownership of the property in question through tax records in the office of the Revenue Commissioner and confirms this through property records in the Probate Judge’s Office.

Once ownership has been determined, the official will send a written request to the owner to enter the property and any buildings on it for further inspection. A written record of any defective conditions will again be made following the inspection. If permission is refused, the official has 14 days to send notice of condemnation without further inspection.

This notice will contain a list of defective conditions as included in the inspection report. The owner will be directed not to take any corrective action until there has been a hearing before the council. The owner then has 25 days to either come up with a remedial plan of work to address the issues in the inspection. A public hearing will be held within 30 days of the date of the notice. Failure to file a plan will result in the building being condemned.

The plan shall contain a detailed list of repairs to be made, estimated cost of the repairs, estimated time for completion and information on the qualified, licensed contractor that will be performing the work. As an alternative, the owner also has 25 days to notify the city of plans to demolish the offending structure.

The owner also has the right to file a written request for a hearing before the city council.

If the council approves the plan of work, the owner must pay a permit fee of $250 for the first 60 days, $500 for up to 120 days and $200 for each 30-day extension after that. Required building permits and fees must also be purchased in a timely fashion.

If an owner is unhappy with the council’s decision at any point, he has 10 days to appeal the city’s decision to Talladega County Circuit Court.

In response to a question from Councilman Donnie Miller, Muenger explained the same standards would apply to residential or business property. If it is in a historic district, the city’s Historic Preservation Commission would have to provide a certificate of appropriateness before going forward. A CoA would not be necessary in every circumstance, but the commission is generally prompt in issuing these certificates, Muenger said.

Council President Horace Patterson said he was particularly pleased with the requirements for written notification at every step of the way.

Also Monday, the council:

• Heard a complaint from a property owner involved with a dispute involving her neighbors; the council told her that this was a civil issue that would have to be resolved in court, and advised her to hire a lawyer.

• Saw Mayor Larry Barton present a proclamation to Herman and Marie Mosley of Mosley’s Flower Shop. They have been in business in Talladega for more than 50 years.

• Heard Muenger announce the city had entered into a contract with Talladega County to dispose of scrap tires in accordance with regulations from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

• Approved the writing off of $390 in bad debt, in the form of returned checks, to be turned over to the Talladega County District Attorney’s Office.

• Approved a contract with Pyrotechnico for $10,450 for Independence Day fireworks.

• Authorized execution and delivery of a master lease agreement for backhoes and a dump truck with SunTrust Leasing and Equipment Finance and Leasing Corporation at $314,488.44 over four years at 1.4 percent. The equipment will be used in the Water Department.

• Approved a contract with Griffin Excavating for tree and brush removal in the water plant ponds for a total cost of $6,750.

• Heard Miller state the sign for Harmon Park had been beaten up.

• Heard Patterson ask Community Appearance Director Mitch Bast to pass along the fact that he is pleased with the flower bed arrangements and tree planting on Battle Street.

• Expressed their appreciation to Police Chief Alan Watson, who will be retiring at the end of July with 28 years of service.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com

© 2013