A pair of ordinances that will give city officials a bit more tools to deal with nuisance properties and unfit dwellings will go before the Spokane Valley City Council next week.
At this Tuesday’s regular meeting, the council unanimously agreed to the proposals, which will give law enforcement more power to take care of homes where there is ongoing suspected criminal activity and dealing with abandoned property.
Final approval of both ordinances is expected at the Jan. 16 council meeting.
Regarding ongoing nuisance homes, several residents of one particular neighborhood complained of a home where they believe drug activity and other criminal acts have been ongoing for years.
“The last 15 years have been hell,” said Renee Anderson, who said her are no strangers to visits by police and even the SWAT team as there are often reported loud fights and strangers coming and going at all hours.
“We have police going by our window with flashlights…these are not isolated incidents but common,” she said.
Another neighbor familiar with the same home said she has seen footprints in the snow in her back yard from those frequenting the home and attempting to avoid police.
Other said it is no longer safe for children to play in their own yards.
Under the proposed updated law, chronic nuisance properties that have five “qualifying criminal acts” take place within a year, the city can seek an abatement order from the court that could include a provision that the property be vacated for up to the year or until the situation is rectified.
“It will happen relatively quickly on those sites where there is ongoing criminal activity,” said City Attorney Cary Driskell. “(The suspects) will certainly violate in short order.”
Efforts would be made, however, not to re-victimize those involved in some sort of domestic violence.
In the separate ordinance concerning unfit dwellings, there were complaints of an abandoned home in one neighborhood that has become a haven for raccoons and teenage drinking parties. It also has accumulations of trash and other hazards.
Under the new provisions, the property owner would receive warnings to clean up the property before facing fines or legal action. If it gets to that point, the city can seek compensation via liens for cleaning up the property or demolishing any existing unsafe structures.
The new nuisance provisions also address issues related to noise, odors, animals, ongoing yard sales and long-term occupied recreational vehicles in the city right-of-way.
Tuesday’s meeting will be at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 10210 E. Sprague Ave., and public comment will be allowed on the proposals.