Archived Story

Conversations with the Council continues talks about unkempt properties

Published 7:15am Monday, July 22, 2013

The debate about Austin’s unkempt yards and buildings continued at Saturday’s Conversations with the Council at the Austin Public Library.

Mayor Tom Stiehm and council members Jeff Austin and Judy Enright again listened to residents’ concerns about tidying up messy yards and run-down buildings. Resident Val Maloney, who brought up the issue at last month’s Conversations and at the most recent Austin City Council meeting, continued her case against property owners in her neighborhood of the 200 block of Seventh Street Northwest. Maloney mentioned one property in particular that has been vacant since July 2012. She worries teenagers are causing trouble, and Enright expounded upon that by mentioning the potential dangers for curious, young children entering such homes. What’s more, Maloney says it’s unfair that unconcerned property owners can drive down the value of her home by letting their properties slip into disrepair.

“Do they have the right to run down the value of everybody’s property in the neighborhood?” she said.

Maloney added she isn’t the only one dealing with such problems in the community, and she still believes a new ordinance needs to be passed. The city council has discussed the possibility of a new ordinance but has not taken any action on it yet. Enright and Austin said a new ordinance, potentially requiring a new registration for landlords, could end up being inefficient. Maloney said something needs to change; however, council members assured her what they are doing is working, just not as quickly as Maloney would like.

“What you want is what we are doing right now,” Stiehm told her. “You can’t always see it.”

Saturday’s conversations started to encompass the issue of ordinances in general. Council members addressed the ordinance about having a fence around swimming pools. Some homeowners are currently not following the rule; however, council members wonder if the ordinance needs to be adjusted or lifted as some people can’t afford to put up fencing to enjoy cheap entertainment.

Another resident spoke about a potential need for an ordinance against feeding deer. The resident spoke about at least half a dozen homeowners feeding deer in the southeast portion of Austin. He said deer are now frequenting the roads and destroying shrubbery in yards. The resident hopes a new ordinance would mean stiff fines for homeowners for feeding deer.

“One guy is even hauling hay bales in,” he said.

The resident spoke with Department of Natural Resources, he said, but DNR apparently told him the issue is a city problem.

Another resident encouraged the council to look at old ordinances to see which ones can be scrapped or updated, as well.

After much talk about ordinances, Maloney encouraged the council to continue Conversations with the Council. She said it’s nice to have an informal discussion with elected officials because more people may be willing to discuss problems in that type of setting. She hopes more people will attend Conversations with the Council in the future. Council members have discussed potentially moving Conversations with the Council to a different day to draw more residents, but they haven’t yet made any decisions.

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