The debate over adding property maintenance standards to the area’s building code boils down to an argument over protecting property values versus the right of owners to do what they want with their property.

The county is considering approving the International Property Maintenance Code as part of the county’s ordinance. The code deals with things such as the proper steps to contact a landowner who is determined to be in violation of the code, how those notices must be delivered and penalties.

Also, code violations could include drainage issues, soil erosion, sanitation, garbage, weeds, motor vehicles and other issues often considered to be unsightly. The code also includes items that are designed to ensure buildings are structurally sound such as foundation and exterior walls of buildings being free from holes or cracks, and “peeling, flaking and chipped paint shall be eliminated and surfaces repainted.”

Buildings under the code can be determined to not be fit for residency or in imminent danger of collapse. Rodent infestations are also banned under the code from domiciles.

In addition, residences have to be up to International Fire Code standards.

“The county gets so many calls about people not taking care of their property. It can be broken down cars in the yard or a dilapidated home,” said Judge-Executive Davie Greer.

There are places within the county where homes that have been burned are still sitting or there are as many of 15 undrivable cars in the yard, she said.

“But the county doesn’t have any ability to go on to private property. The most Shannon (White, the county code enforcement officer) can do is right letters or have the county attorney (Jeff Sharp) write letters,” Greer said.

The county doesn’t have any way to enforce someone not taking care of their property, she said.

A change to allow a property maintenence code “will give the county some teeth” when there is a problem, Greer said.

If the code is passed, White will also be able to look at rental property to ensure it is safe to live in, White said.

Barren County already has the building portion of the International Building code for construction, he said. This would just add the building maintenance portion of the code.

Glasgow, Park City and Cave City all already use the building maintenance part of the code, Greer said.

Magistrate Billy Houchens said he is one of only two magistrates that appears to be for adding the building code.

“I don’t know why they’re not for it,” he said. “But there’s no reason to bring it up if we can’t get it passed.”

There will be another committee meeting about the code after the first of the year, Houchens said. The other two members of the committee — Carlie Coe Jr. and Howard Bowman Jr. — did not return calls for comment about the issue.

If the property maintenance code is passed, it would go a long way toward helping the county in situations where an owner refuses to care for his property, Houchens said.

Donna Soper, a Park City resident, who was part of the group who came to fiscal court about two months ago, said she doesn’t expect fiscal court will pass the maintenance code until more citizens demand it.

“The key is to tell citizens about how the code affects them and how it doesn’t,” she said.

Right now people are concerned because of “corner store gossip” about the maintenance code telling people when they have to mow their grass.

Barren County residents are not prepared for planning and zoning for the same reason. They are afraid they will be forced into doing certain things with their property, Soper said.

The current situation is that, because of Barren County laws, code enforcement can’t do anything about rental mobile homes that are in bad condition and are brought into the county, Soper said.

“No one is saying they don’t want mobile homes in Barren County,” she said. “There is a need for that type of housing.”

The two actions fiscal court could take that would go a long way toward protecting property values would be to pass the maintenance code and eliminate the provision in the county’s mobile home ordinance that gives owners 120 days to get mobile homes inspected, Soper said.

The ordinance of mobile homes should require that they are safe and up to standards before they are brought into the county, she said.

“No one’s going to build a really nice home out in the county unless they can buy a whole bunch of land, because they don’t know what could go up next door to them or right across the street,” Greer said. “It’s happened before.” 

The goal of using the property maintenance code is not to tell people what they can or can’t do on their property, she said.

“Reviews will only be done if there’s a complaint,” Greer said. “(White) doesn’t have the time to go around and look at every property in the county.” 

The goal of the entire thing is to protect people’s property values.



A few samples of the general provisions of the code are listed below.

Demolition:

The building official or its designee shall order the owner of any premises upon which is located any structure, which in the building official's judgment is so old, dilapidated or has become so out of repair as to be dangerous, unsafe, unsanitary or otherwise unfit for human habitation or occupancy, and such that it is unreasonable to repair the structure, to demolish and remove such structure; or if such structure is capable of being made safe by repairs, to repair and make safe and sanitary or to demolish and remove at the owner's option; or where there has been a cessation of normal construction of any structure for a period of more than two years, to demolish and remove such structure.

Means of Appeal:

Any person directly affected by a decision of the building official or a notice or order issued under this code shall have the right to appeal to the Mayor and Council, provided that a written application for appeal is filed within 20 days after the day the decision, notice or order was served. An application for appeal shall be based on a claim that the true intent of this code or the rules legally adopted there under have been incorrectly interpreted, the provisions of this code do not fully apply, or the requirements of this code are adequately satisfied by other means.

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