City officials talk about nuisance code lettersCity leaders aim to start dialogue; business owners dispute handling of issue.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
While Mitchell City Councilman Greg McCurry said the city’s nuisance code enforcement is about being “good neighbors,” some downtown business owners seem to think the city could be a bit more neighborly when notifying them of violations.
Local business owners were given the opportunity to discuss and ask questions about the city’s nuisance codes at a seminar Thursday evening at Mitchell Technical Institute’s south campus amphitheater. The event was hosted by Mitchell Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Lanning and Mitchell Main Street & Beyond. About 20 people attended the seminar.
“It is just another way to make sure that Mitchell is the best town possible,” McCurry said. McCurry is the city’s liaison with Mitchell Main Street & Beyond.
The seminar comes just a few weeks after the city sent out 35 nuisance letters to Main Street businesses. Owners were given 14 days to contact Lanning’s office with plans to fix the violations, most of which were minor cosmetic issues, such as peeling paint or cracked windows. If the problems aren’t fixed, property owners can be subject to fines or jail time.
“I think we could do away with most of these (nuisance codes) and go back to good neighbors,” said Justin Morrison, who co-owns Dr. Lucky’s Bar & Grill. He and fellow co-owners Elizabeth Morrison and Mike Pierson attended the event. They received one of the 35 nuisance letters for issues with windows on the upper floors of their business.
“It’s just frustrating,” he said. Morrison felt the city should deal with nuisance codes violations “on a more personal basis,” rather than send out letters.
By sending out the nuisance letters, McCurry explained, the city was only following the procedures required by law.
“I would love it if we could go out and talk to people,” he said. “That’s not the way government is set up.”
Both McCurry and Lanning admitted the city can make improvements in how it deals with nuisance code violations, and both called the recent events a “learning process.”
“We’re going to work with property owners,” Lanning said. “That’s not a problem. We just wanted to bring these issues forward.”
Morrison was also concerned that the city was forcing him to spend money on aesthetic improvements, when the funds could better be used to improve his business in other ways.
“Let us decide how best to spend our money,” he said.
Pierson agreed, saying he couldn’t justify spending money on fixing upper-level windows when the money could be better invested elsewhere.
“Bring more business downtown,” he said. “That’s what I want to see.”
Mayor Ken Tracy, who was in attendance, said starting a discussion between the city and its business owners was the city’s ultimate goal.
“The problem didn’t happen overnight and it won’t be corrected overnight,” he said. “We just wanted to start a dialogue.”