GLASGOW – Barren County’s government is going to consider a program to address some “nuisance” properties by purchasing some where the seller is willing, cleaning them up and then selling them.
The issue led to several minutes of discussion at Tuesday’s regular Barren County Fiscal Court meeting.
Magistrate Mark Bowman, who chairs the Emergency Management and Solid Waste Committee, first reported on that group’s recommendations for amendments to ordinances relating to open dumping and nuisance properties to require that complaints must be in writing and must come from someone on a property adjacent, adjoining or across from the one where the alleged issues are. First readings of ordinances making those changes were unanimously approved, with all eight members present.
He showed on a large screen several photos of poorly maintained properties and discussed the checklist for the process that takes place and the timeline in response to complaints.
He went on to say, though, that, “sometimes we need more tools in our toolboxes when we’re dealing with things. And sometimes – it’s not always the case – but when you’re dealing with these situations, it’s not always under the most pleasant circumstances, so anytime we can take a negative and make it a positive, I think that’s the direction we should go.”
With that, Bowman said he was putting a proposal out there for food for thought and discussion.
“Another tool in the toolbox would be, you might ask the property owner, ‘Would you be willing to sell this property?’ And if they are, that’s going to alleviate a lot of …. You can have almost immediate resolution if they’re willing to do that,” he said.
If they purchase properties at a reasonable price, to be determined with an appraisal, they could use the property for community improvements or community relief projects and/or selling the property to create a revenue stream for the county for various projects.
Magistrate Carl Dickerson said he thought the county would need to approve anything like that and make sure it’s legal, and Hale said he had spoken with Rich Ornstein, a staff attorney for the Kentucky Association of Counties about it.
“Legally, we can do this,” the judge-executive said. “Now, I’m not saying we go out and buy $250,000 worth of properties.”
He said that, often, these properties have been inherited and the new owners cannot afford the maintenance or know what all is needed.
“A lot of them have just said, ‘Hey, if we can get rid of this and help clean this up, we’d be more than happy to part with it ...,’” Hale said. “I like this concept. I’m sure there’s cons to it that we probably don’t see. You’ve just got to, have to get your feet wet and see how it’s going to go, but I would love to start pursuing this, because there are several properties we need to identify and take care of quickly, because they’re just getting worse.”
He said these owners tend to be hard to track down sometimes, too.
“As a county, I feel like it’s time we get real serious about this and start cleaning some things up,” Hale said.
Magistrate Trent Riddle asked about what happens if the owner is not interested in selling or doesn’t like the price, and he asked Kevin Myatt, planning director for the Joint City-County Planning Commission of Barren County, who was in the audience, how the city of Glasgow handles these.
Myatt said that it can tend to be a long, drawn-out process, but if the issues are not addressed, the city can declare eminent domain and take the property, but it rarely happens like that. Myatt pointed out that he does not work directly in code enforcement but these were his observations from sharing office space with code enforcement officials.
Riddle said that perhaps the county could use some things from Glasgow’s playbook, and Hale said he expected that Bowman’s committee would have more meetings on it.
“I do think this is a great step in the right direction,” the judge-executive said.
Bowman said this would not be the answer in every situation, because each is unique, but it would just give them another possible option.
Riddle asked whether they needed to take action Tuesday or investigate further, and Dickerson suggested the county attorney draft a resolution or ordinance so they could move forward on it, and he put that in the form of a motion that was approved unanimously.