By Pat Jenkins
Pierce County officials may soon become less patient with owners of trashy-looking property.
In an effort to make life better for neighbors of eyesores, the County Council voted last week to toughen the rules for abandoned or blighted property in unincorporated areas of the county. Among other things, the time it takes before the county can take legal action against offending property owners could be cut in half.
“Abandoned and poorly maintained properties lower property values, attract vandalism and other illegal activities, and pose health and safety risks,” said Councilman Stan Flemming, the sponsor of Ordinance 2014-4s. “Our current code is outdated and doesn’t adequately address this problem. These new rules follow best practices and will improve our ability to respond to citizen complaints.”
Flemming and the rest of the council unanimously passed the ordinance Feb. 25 and sent it to County Executive Pat McCarthy, who must sign it before it can become law on April 1, the effective date requested by the council. McCarthy’s approval is likely, since she helped craft the new rules that went before the council.
According to its supporters, the ordinance closes gaps in the county’s regulatory authority and creates a more efficient enforcement procedure for owners of homes and property that fall below minimum standards. For example, existing regulations require the county to wait 185 days after receiving a complaint before it can seek court action, if needed, to force landowners to clean up their property. Under the new rules, that waiting period would be 92 days.
In response to complaints from citizens, “we found that Pierce County had no standards in place,” said Councilman Dan Roach. The pending new legislation, he said, provides “common-sense standards that will protect our communities and property owners from blight.”
The regulations will apply only to areas of the county that are outside of towns or cities. Municipalities have their own rules for addressing blighted property.