Miami County wants to add ‘teeth’ to code that deals with blight complaints

The Miami County commissioners said they support creating a county property maintenance code.
The Miami County commissioners said they support creating a county property maintenance code.

TROY – The Miami County commissioners said they support creating a county property maintenance code so they can tell those making complaints about blight or other concerns something other than “We don’t have anything.”

The county development department had initial discussions with the county prosecutor’s office about coming up with a maintenance code before approaching commissioners about the concept, said Rich Osgood, county development director.

Osgood said the Municipal Court prosecutor’s office would be asked to handle cases filed because the criminal violations would be misdemeanor offenses.

A draft code along with policies and procedures will be drawn up and later discussed with the commission, Osgood said.

“We will be focusing on blight in general both commercial, which we already do from a safety standpoint, and residential, which we are planning to expand on,” said county Chief Building Official Rob England.

“Currently the Ohio Building Code gives us the authority to enforce the code on commercial property owners to keep their structures safe and sanitary, but we are needing to enforce more on the residential side to reduce unsafe and blighted structures throughout the county,” England said.

Commissioner Wade Westfall asked about a collaborative effort with townships because Osgood said if the county approves a code, it will supersede any township structure codes.

Some townships have junk vehicle ordinances, but more information will be needed on any existing maintenance codes, commissioners were told.

Commissioner Ted Mercer said the townships would use the prosecutors’ office as legal representative either way so having a countywide maintenance code would make sense.

“Since I have been on the commission, we have all received calls, emails or something about blight in the county. The worst thing is our answer, ‘We don’t have anything. We are sorry, we are sorry that the guy has 10 junk vehicles, the weeds are 10 feet high, but we don’t have any ordinance to help solve that problem,’” Mercer said.

He said he wanted to see the code structured so the county can “have some teeth” in any enforcement efforts.

Osgood said commissioners would need to decide whether to pursue proactive enforcement of violations seen or instead handle cases on a complaint basis.

Westfall said building inspectors out on the job could keep their eyes open while out in the county but said he favored a “mostly complaint-based” system.

Mercer called for complaint based only. “We are not going out being the police,” he said.

The development office including Osgood and Rob England, chief building official, also has been working with the county prosecutor’s office on legal action against some commercial properties where requested maintenance has not taken place. On the commercial cases, prosecutors will be using the civil injunction process in the Common Pleas Court, Osgood said.

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