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Commissioners vote to clean up the county

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Property Standards and Solid Waste ordinances passed; mobile home issue tabled

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    Representatives from the John Milledge Academy basketball team received a standing ovation from county commissioners on Tuesday night and were awarded with a proclamation. The Trojans recently finished the season 27-1 and won the GISA AAA state championsh

For the first time in its 140-plus-year history, the local county commission has approved a Property Standards ordinance for unincorporated Baldwin County.

The ordinance, which passed unanimously on Tuesday, will be “complaint driven,” which is something that multiple county commissioners went out of their way to mention to the audience.

“I think that one of the important parts is that it will be complaint driven,” Commissioner Sammy Hall said prior to the vote. “We’re not gonna have somebody riding up and down the road looking for problems.”

Instead, complaints from neighbors and other residents will be funneled into the Baldwin County Code Enforcement office, which now operates out of the new government annex on North Columbia Street. From there, the county’s lone code enforcement officer will respond to the property and begin an official report. At that point, the property owner “must begin to make progress” before a follow-up visit from the code enforcement officer 30 days later.

“All we want to see is that (the property owner) is making at least some progress and a concerted effort to correct the issues,” County Manager Carlos Tobar told The Baldwin Bulletin. “(The code enforcement officer) will come back after 30 days and continue to monitor.”

Added Commissioner Henry Craig during Tuesday’s meeting: “We are not heavy handed. We want to help people to take care of their problems and help neighbors take care of their neighbors.”

Eventually, however, if “progress” stalls, property owners can begin receiving a fine of $500 per day, according to Tobar.

“Personally, I lean strongly towards the libertarian side of things and limited government,” Tobar said. “But, when there’s an economic cost to someone due to someone else’s actions, something has to be done. You should not be able to impact a person’s property values by not keeping up your property.”

There’s no mention in the ordinance of grass-cutting standards, which is a focus of other property standard ordinances in some other counties. Instead, that falls under the more broad category of “rodent harborage.”

“We don’t care how high your grass is,” Tobar said. “That’s not really our intent.”

The new ordinance will impact of all of unincorporated Baldwin County. The city of Milledgeville, meanwhile, has had an established set of property standards in place for decades now, and any property located within the city limits will not be impacted, one way or the other, by the county’s new ordinance.

Here is a general breakdown of the Property Standards ordinance:

“Abandoned Vehicles” – Essentially, automobiles, RVs and boats cannot be parked along the street (public property) for more than 48 hours without moving. Also, any junk vehicles “within public view” cannot sit in the same spot for more than 90 days “unless ongoing significant, visible and definable work on vehicle is in progress,” or “unless vehicle is neatly covered with a weatherproo cover, anchored to the vehicle and in a sanitary condition.” In the ordinance, public view is defined as “visible from the public right-of-way.”

• “Grading and Drainage” – According to the ordinance, “all premises shall be graded and maintained to prevent the erosion of soil, proper drainage to ditch or retention area and not onto neighboring property, and to prevent the accumulation of stagnant water thereon, or within any structure.”

“Rodent Harborage” – This one basically covers severely overgrown yards. According to the ordinance, “all structures and exterior property shall be kept free from rodent harborage and infestation through accumulation of vines, brushes, trees, any accumulation of dead weeds, grass, or other solid waste.”

“Defacement of Property” – This essentially prohibits graffiti and carvings on the side of any structure of any home or out-structure.”

“Trash, Garbage and Solid Waste” – According to the ordinance, “all exterior property and premises shall be free from any accumulation of trash, garbage or solid waste,” with the exception of compost piles.

“Disposal of Trash” – According to the ordinance, “every occupant of a structure shall dispose of all trash in a clean and sanitary manner by placing such trash in approved containers outside of public view.”

“Stagnant Swimming Pools” – According to the ordinance, “swimming pools, spas, and similar structures above ground, on ground, or in ground, shall be maintained in a safe, clean, sanitary, secure, and structurally and mechanically sound condition.”

“Accessory structures” – According to the ordinance, “all accessory structures, including detached garages, fences and walls, shall be maintained structurally sound and in good repair.”

Vacant Building” – This portion of the ordinance is more lengthy. Essentially, all doors to a vacant or abandoned home must have functioning locks, all windows “must be secured by latch, lock of other means so as to prevent easy entry,” all exterior walls and roofs “shall be kept in good repair and free of holes, cracks, defective materials and structural deterioration,” while the outside of the home and property must “be kept free of any accumulation of trash, garbage, trash or any waste material of such quantity as to constitute an unsanitary condition.”

“Burned Structures” – A property owner essentially has 120 days after the Baldwin County Fire Rescue and the insurance adjustor have completed their final investigations to remove any and all charred debris and housing material. After 180 days, meanwhile, the property owner must “remove from the premises all the remaining portion of the building or structure.”

Also during Tuesday’s regular meeting, county commissioners voted to table its proposed Manufactured Homes ordinance, which had been scheduled for a vote during the meetings. For various reasons, this ordinance has been meet with a relatively inordinate amount of resistance from the public, with roughly a half-dozen citizens speaking out against the ordinance.

Commissioners did, however, pass a Solid Waste ordinance, which essentially serves as a complement to the Property Standards ordinance.