An ordinance designed to hold property owners to maintaining vacant and abandoned properties was amended on Monday, Aug. 4, to allow the city to fine the owner for failing to maintain the property. Funds acquired from the fines will be used for local abatement programs to assist in clean up.
“All it takes is one (neglected property) to blight a block,” said City Attorney Tom Hallinan when presenting the amendment at the Oakdale City Council meeting. “It gives us another tool.”
Vacant buildings in the city often attract transients, criminals, and drug users who squat without care for the structure and cause further damage by the use of primitive heating and cooking means, city officials noted. Vacant properties are often used as a dumping ground for drug paraphernalia, garbage, and debris, and are frequently overgrown with weeds and vegetation.
When establishing the ordinance, the city council previously found that neglected, vacant and abandoned properties are a major source of blight in neighborhoods, especially when those owners fail to maintain and manage those properties, so council members established the ordinance requiring upkeep.
The amendment to the ordinance now allows the city to fine any owner of a vacant residential property acquired through a foreclosure up to $1,000 per day for failing to maintain the property. The modification now gives relief to neighborhood residents as well, since any funds obtained through fines can be used to clean up the property.
The amendment does require that before fine is imposed, the city must give notice of violation and allow at least 30 days for cleaning it up.
During discussion, councilman Farrell Jackson wanted to ensure that buyers of properties weren’t blindsided where the purchase was in good faith and there were intentions on modifications or clean up.
“I want to make sure that we don’t penalize someone who may have bought the property on the courthouse steps (during auction) and they were waiting for financing for a project,” Jackson said.
“The intent is the absentee owner,” Hallinan said, pointing out there was a provision for exceptions to be made in those cases.
Also during the meeting the council appointed Don Duke to the Parks and Recreation Commission and Carol Lyda to the Senior Advisory Commission.
Duke is a former district manager for Carls Jr. and Lyda, a 12-year resident of the city, has served with the CAPS volunteer program and was in the senior outreach program.
Jennifer Stasio, who previously served on the traffic commission and planning commission, was reappointed to the planning commission pending filing of state forms.
Though there are no plans for someone on the council attending, the council appointed Don Petersen as its voting delegate to the League of California Cities Annual Business Meeting in September. The council has $550 set aside in this year’s budget for attendance.
Last year, due to budget constraints the council did not send or assign a member to attend the 2013 conference and did not appoint a member to represent the city at the annual business meeting.