Port Orchard City Council reviews abatement code changes

By BOB SMITH

Kitsap News Group

PORT ORCHARD — Port Orchard’s mayor and City Council are moving forward with plans to replace the existing code that governs the city’s ability to seek repairs or removal of building structures judged to be dangerous or in disrepair.

City officials met April 18 during a City Council work study session to review and discuss an executive summary detailing a proposed replacement of Port Orchard’s Uniform Code for the Abatement of Dangerous Buildings, or UCADB, with a new municipal code based on state code regulations.

The executive summary included photos of 23 structures within city limits that have been deemed by Port Orchard enforcement officials as being dangerous or unfit for occupancy.

Doug Price, the city’s code enforcement officer, briefed Port Orchard city officials on the proposed replacement, which he said would be an inclusive process to compel owners of dilapidated buildings to vacate, repair or demolish them in a timely manner.

The current code, he said, allows the city to recover the costs it incurs to abate a structure, but recovery can take years and the costs to do so can be significant.

Price said the current process calls for the city to issue a notice and order to the owner of a dangerous building. The owner can appeal that order to an appeals board. If the appeal is denied and the owner fails to comply, the city then can begin abatement proceedings.

The proposed process, Price said, would provide adequate due process to the property owner and also provide what he said is a “faster, easier and much higher level of recovery of public funds.”

According to the executive summary, the new code “allows the City to file a lien in a manner for which the City does not have statutory authority.” Further, the new code would:

• Authorize the city officer to have the lien recorded against the property, eliminating the “after-the-fact” public hearing before the City Council prior to a lien being recorded.

• Detail the legal process that must be followed before city employees may enter private property to conduct abatement.

• Address buildings that may not be “dangerous,” but are otherwise unfit for occupancy or other use.

• Change the criteria for declaring a building or structure dangerous or unfit for occupancy.

• Establish criteria for determining if a building or structure must be demolished versus being repaired, and;

• Create other enforcement measures, including civil infractions and criminal charges usually administered by Superior Court, which may be used in addition or as an alternative to abatement.

Price said the new process “would actually be more beneficial than the other process itself because you get the owners involved at the outset so they would know about the abatement that comes out of that process, based on that hearing.

“The owner actually has the opportunity to be part of putting together that order and hopefully coming up with something that works for both parties,” he added.

The resulting benefit of the new code, he said, is that it would eliminate what invariably becomes an adversarial process and instead turn it into a cooperative process.

Price said the new code would lean heavily toward minimizing the need to issue criminal charges against a noncompliant building owner.

“We don’t want to create a situation where someone has to deal with having a criminal record after going through the process,” he said. “We want this to be as inclusive and fair as possible.”

Mayor Rob Putaansuu said the city has set aside funds for abatement of the most dangerous and public nuisance properties in Port Orchard.

He added that city officials believe most of those identified structures would be corrected by their owners during the process.

Price and other city officials estimate that an average of two or three buildings per year would not be corrected and would require abatement by the city.

Still to be decided by the City Council is whether city staff or the mayor are to be responsible for deciding to proceed with abatement if an owner fails to comply with an issued order.

Council members and Putaansuu indicated at the study session that they will take up the issue soon at a full City Council meeting, when the current UCADB is expected to be replaced and repealed.

The dilapidated condition of some buildings and homes in Port Orchard has been a subject of concern voiced by some residents during the most recent city election campaign.

The shabby exterior of the Myhre’s building on Bay Street probably was the most significant complaint registered by citizens during the last few years.

Building owner Mansour Samadpour had the exterior facade tidied and repainted late last year after repeated urging by some Port Orchard residents, Putaansuu and a number of City Council members.

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