CUMBERLAND - A house with chipped paint, high weeds or maybe a down spout that's not connected.

No problem, the city has an ordinance to address those issues.

A property that's structurally deficient and declared unsafe, hazardous, dilapidated or dangerous.

The city can deal with those properties as well.

But for those that fall somewhere in between the chipped paint concerns and toppling in on themselves, the city currently doesn't have a way to handle them.

That could change soon.

City Administrator Jeff Repp presented a draft of the City of Cumberland Nuisance and Abandoned Property Abatement ordinance at Tuesday's public meeting at City Hall. Four of the draft's 10 sections were reviewed with the remaining six based on procedures such as how to notify property owners.

He said a good example is a fire-damaged property that's not falling in on itself. It is, however, causing the neighborhood's value to decrease. The home at 508 Washington St., which currently is under renovations after being gutted by fire in August 1998, "would be a good candidate."

An abandoned property is one that is not occupied and is not viable because it "is unsuitable for habitation or reasonable use, is in a dilapidated, hazardous, unsafe or dangerous condition or is open to entrance or trespass." A nuisance property on the other hand is "in an unsafe, hazardous or unsanitary condition that interferes with the use or enjoyment of adjacent land, injures or interferes with adjacent land or poses a significant danger to or adversely affects the health, safety or welfare of the surrounding community."

The director of administrative services, currently Jeff Rhodes, is to oversee the program and work with City Solicitor Michael Scott Cohen to begin court proceedings against the owners or to reach a settlement. In settlement agreements, owners would be required to repair and rehabilitate properties, demolish the property or transfer the title to the city.

In the case of rehabilitation, the owner would have no more than four months. Should those repairs not be made in that time period, the property will be demolished and a lien placed on it.

Cohen said a complaint would be filed in circuit court stating why the property was considered a nuisance or abandoned and the history of it such as citations issues and whether or not the problems were rectified. The owner and lenders or those with a deed of trust also would be notified.

"Ideally, we'd like the owner to cooperate with the city and take the (blighted property) to an acceptable condition," he said.

The situation also can be remedied by the owner agreeing to a demolition.

Cohen, however, pointed out a difference between a nuisance property and a nuisance use.

A gambling or drug house, considered a nuisance use, is not eligible for demolition under this ordinance. Other legal ramifications address those problems.

Councilman Butch Hendershot asked how this draft differs from what's already on the books and the role of Chuck Winebrenner, the city's code enforcement officer.

Cohen said Winebrenner can issue citations and the court can order a judgment but that's where it ends now. The new ordinance is stronger in that remedial measures are required but should the property owner refuse or fail to do them, the city can take care of the matter.

Cumberland resident John Marvin later spoke about the proposed ordinance and said he'd like to be involved in its drafting. One problem he sees is with the four-month time period. If that's issued in October or November, he said, a property owner can't be expected to paint the outside in those winter months.

Mayor Lee Fiedler asked Marvin to submit his comments to Repp.

The first reading of the ordinance will take place at the next public meeting.

Maria Smith can be reached at msmith@times-news.com.

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