Neglected property focus of city ordinance

<p class="indent">Property within Lake Charles city limits can be boarded up for two years before it is considered blighted and fines are assessed.</p><p class="indent">The City Council voted 6-1 on Wednesday to approve the two-year cap. Mayor Nic Hunter said the ordinance is designed to improve the city’s overall appearance and safety.</p><p class="indent">“We have heard the cries from the council (and) the public that enough is enough,” he said.</p><p class="indent">Hunter said the city wants to respect the rights of property owners, but he added that neglected homes often invite criminal activity and lower property values.</p><p class="indent">“Being a responsible property owner does not mean allowing your property to become an eyesore to the neighborhood,” he said.</p><p class="indent">After two years, Hunter said an official will consider possible hardships, like a family trying to handle business after the original property owner has died.</p><p class="indent">“We feel like two years is a pretty good amount of time to decide what they’re going to do with the property,” he said. “At the end of two years, if they have property that’s still boarded up, I just tend to wonder why you bought it in the first place.”</p><p class="indent">District A Councilwoman Mary Morris was the only one to oppose the ordinance.</p><p class="indent">The panel also heard about how updated property standards have shortened the time from when a violation is reported, to when an issue is resolved. Terry Magnon, the city’s permit center manager, said new technology like smartphones, GPS and email, along with publishing violations in the <span>American Press</span> and on the city’s website, has cut the response time from 90 days to 30 days.</p><p class="indent">The city has also added a new full-time inspector and reassigned another inspector to a full-time job.</p><p class="indent">Magnon said the number of property inspections has increased from 4,716 in 2016 to 6,969 so far this year. Violations have risen from 1,957 in 2016 to 2,518 this year. However, there are fewer job orders so far in 2018, compared to 2016.</p><p class="indent">To report property concerns, call 491-1295.</p>””neglected properties

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