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Property maintenance vote slated for Monday

FRONT ROYAL – Town Council will vote again on a proposed property maintenance code at its regular 7 p.m. meeting on Monday.

The town may approve one of two options, which according to the meeting’s agenda item, include:

• Adoption of a section of the proposed property maintenance code that would not expand the town’s enforcement powers beyond the established public nuisance code.

• Adoption of the entire proposed property maintenance code that would allow a complaint-based or proactive enforcement.

Town Attorney Doug Napier said over the phone that the first option would not change “a whole lot” and the town would not be able to enforce any violations that it cannot already through the public nuisance code.

He said the only change would be that these enforcement rules are in the town code, making violations a “little easier” to prove in court.

Napier said the second, “broader” and “more inclusive” option, allows the town to address all unsafe or unhealthy structures, not just ones that pose a danger to the public.

If the council approved this option, he said violations would be enforced by either Warren County’s building official, a part-time engineer or a part-time code officer.

William Huck, owner of 409 and 413 E. Main St. and proprietor of C&C Frozen Treats, said he hopes the town will pass the broader maintenance code. He sad a neighboring vacant building at 415 E. Main St. is dilapidated and has been infested with raccoons.

Huck said he had seen five raccoons at 415 E. Main St. during the last two months, and more in the past. He said Animal Control, the Health Department, Warren County Building Inspections, the Fire Marshal’s office and the town all declined to become involved with the issue.

He said the raccoons are “a huge health concern for the community” and the councilmen need to “step up and be leaders.”

Napier said the town could not take on the raccoon issue because, unless they are rabid, it is a “private nuisance.” Huck noted that the raccoons were captured and released without testing, making it impossible to tell if they were rabid.

Napier said that if the town were to adopt broader proposed maintenance code, it could enforce violations on such vacant buildings.

Huck said he hopes that will happen because he wants to expand his business into 409 E. Main St., which I Want Candy recently vacated. While he said there is not an infestation in his buildings and preventative measures have been taken, it is only a matter of time before it happens without help.

He added that the 415 E. Main St. structure is deteriorating, noting a crack in its exterior and that a piece of the building recently fell, narrowly missing a pedestrian. He said if the building continues deteriorating, it could damage his property or injure tenants in apartments above ground-floor commercial areas.

Huck also noted that the building’s contents present a fire hazard.

According to previous reports, the council in February voted down a maintenance code, with councilmen Jacob Meza and Christopher Morrison absent.

That followed a January decision to not approve a property maintenance code and rental inspections district. Discussions of the matter have been ongoing for years.

Morrison, who has been a long-time proponent of a property maintenance program, said he believes there are two certain votes – his and Meza’s – in favor of the more encompassing program.

Although he said a program with a rental inspections district would be ideal, today is a chance to take a step in the right direction.

He added that approving a code that does not add any power to the town’s authority would accomplish nothing. Meza expressed similar sentiments during a work session.

Huck agreed and said approving a program that is simply the public nuisance code would be a way of saying “we’ve done something, but we’ve done nothing.”

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