All members of the Ostrander City Council were in attendance on January 4 for the regular council meeting. The council heard from two citizens who recently received letters from the city due to their violations of the city’s “nuisance” ordinances.
Andrew Vreeman asked, “I guess I’ll starting by just asking for specifics on what I’m in violation of?” City Clerk Wendy Brincks responded, saying that Vreeman’s carport had been “grandfathered in” back when Ostrander adopted an ordinance that does not allow carports. She said that when the carport was damaged in a recent storm, it was left in a condition that requires replacement. She said it cannot be replaced with another carport, but she added, “It can be replaced with a solid structure.”
Brincks explained, “And the other issue was your lawn equipment stuff kind of strewn about your yard.” Vreeman said he could get the lawn equipment moved this weekend, but asked for an extension until spring regarding the carport. He said he plans to put down a larger concrete pad and then a permanent structure on that. He asked about a particular type of structure. Brincks suggested he bring photos and details to the Zoning meeting on February 8 at 7 p.m., so the Zoning Board could make a decision on whether or not it will comply with the ordinance. The council voted to approve the extension until spring.
Dustin Hellickson then addressed the council, saying, “I’m in the same situation, as far as, too much stuff in my yard, and I was asking for an extension.” He explained that he is working on moving the vehicles and the woodpile, and already removed his boat from the property. He said he could have everything done by late March or early April. The council voted to grant the extension, and will review his progress during the council’s meeting in April.
Regarding other property owners who have been informed they are in violation of property ordinances, Brincks said she recently consulted with Lee Novotny, the city’s prosecution attorney. She said he suggested the next step would be that, “It would go to the route of establishing the nuisance and getting a court order from the judge. At that point, the judge will grant them a window of so many days to clean it up, and if not, then the judge will grant us permission to hire a service to go in and do the cleanup.” She also said Novotny suggested the city may wish to consider adding a second and third level of fines for these situations, to clearly show that the city has made several attempts to address these violations.
Next, the council returned to the issue of the (Gary Carpenter) foreclosure home sale. Brincks reminded the council that the city essentially has a choice between two options. First, the city could allow the property to go up for auction, and if it’s bought, the city very likely would still have an eyesore and dangerous property in the city.
Second, the city could buy the property, for $1 and a few addional fees. Brincks said the total of the purchase price and fees would be under $1,000. But she cautioned that then it would be the city’s responsibility to demolish and remove the property and contents. She estimated that could cost $20,000 or more, due to the large amount of clutter, and possibly asbestos in the home.
Brincks emphasized, “The house is structurally not safe. The sheriff entered into the home a few steps to manage photos, but it needs to come down.” She added, “The other thing to think about is, if the city takes possession, you take possession for life. You cannot resell the property.” She said the city could use it for a shop or garage, parking lot, park, etc. She clarified that a private owner would be free to build on the property and/or could resell it at any time. Brincks suggested the council wait until an upcoming special meeting to decide how to proceed regarding this property. No council action was taken at this time.
The council’s next regular meeting will be Tuesday, February 8, at 6:30 p.m., in the community center. The public is welcome at all meetings, other than special closed meetings.