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Mount Washington looks for way to maintain vacated residences

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By Mallory Bilger

MOUNT WASHINGTON ee" Tall grass, boarded up windows and a deteriorating facade are just some of the tell-tale signs that a property might be caught in foreclosure ee" a rising problem throughout Bullitt County.

City councilman Dale Walter wants to stop Mount Washington’s properties from becoming victim to unsightly and unsafe conditions often associated with properties in foreclosure, so he is sponsoring a new property maintenance code ordinance to help ensure land and homes are maintained, no matter whom the property owner is.

The city council had its first reading of the ordinance April 13.

“With this ordinance we can go back on the mortgage holder and they will have to upkeep the property.

“This is not only to protect the integrity of Mount Washington, but it’s a safety issue also,” he said.

Walter said the ordinance creates a comprehensive property maintenance guideline for private residents, business owners and rental property owners and operators.

Although Walters said Mount Washington’s foreclosure rate was fairly low, he has noticed deteriorating properties that, if ignored, could become safety hazards and breeding grounds for crime. He added that such properties cause surrounding property values to decline.

“If you’ve got a bunch of boarded up houses, you’ve got a possible meth lab,” Walter said.

Mount Washington Attorney Norman Lemme said the ordinance combines some elements of current property maintenance ordinances, but is more comprehensive and also addresses some new issues.

The proposed ordinance addresses the maintenance of the premises’ exterior, commercial and industrial material storage, landscaping, reconstructed walls and siding, general maintenance and structural maintenance.

According to the ordinance, any petitions filed against property for being out of compliance will be brought before a hearing board established by the mayor. The board will then collect evidence and decide if the property is out of compliance.

Those not complying with the hearing board’s orders face city officials fixing the problems at the expense of the owner. In extreme cases where buildings are involved, a property owner could face his or her building being deemed unfit for use or human habitation, making it illegal for anyone to enter.

“It’s unfortunate and I hate to see people lose their homes (due to foreclosure) but we don’t want other peoples’ property values going down,” Walter said. “The only people that would be fearful of this ordinance would be those that have no intention of keeping up their properties.”

According to the ordinance, property owners can appeal the hearing board’s rulings to Bullitt District Court within seven days of the decision being handed down.

“(Property owners) can go to the board, plead their case and get extra time,” Walter said.

Addressing all of the city’s delapidated properties will take time, Walter admitted. But he said he result will be worth the effort.

“This isn’t something that’s going to be fixed overnight,” he said.

The city council will have the second reading and vote on this ordinance at its April 27 meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the City Hall Annex on Branham Way.