MOREHEAD CITY — Officials here may be chalking up a new approach in response to graffiti.
If a measure recently approved by the city planning board gets the council’s approval, the city will begin treating spray-can vandalism as a public nuisance and require property owners to clean up or pay up.
A public hearing on the proposal is set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday during the council’s monthly meeting at the Municipal Building at 202 S. Eighth St.
The ordinance amendment, if approved by the city council later this month, applies to “any graffiti or marks made by drawing, painting, writing, inscribing, or otherwise defacing any real or personal property,” according to an amendment approved by the planning board March 18 in a unanimous vote. A related action included unanimous approval of a resolution that states graffiti on public or private party “has potential to create conditions which can reduce property values, promote blight and deterioration, reflect poorly on the community and be injurious to the general welfare.”
City officials said the action was prompted by a “problem building” in the 500 block of Arendell Street. Graffiti on that building had since been painted over but other examples remain, including a building on 12th Street.
If approved, city officials will make an effort to contact the property owner or person in control of the property to remove the graffiti. If that doesn’t work, the city will send out a letter, giving the owner or tenant 10 days to take care of the problem. If still not addressed, the city can take action and bill the owner for the associated costs.
A property owner or tenant receiving the notification may appeal the enforcement officer’s decision to the city manager, who may affirm, modify or reverse the decision of the enforcement officer.
“That’s what we do for other nuisance complaints,” Planning and Zoning Director Linda Staab said Thursday.
Other nuisances defined in city codes include inadequate maintenance of buildings or land, improper disposal of refuse, accumulations of junk, garbage, rubbish, refuse or recyclable items offensive because of odors, vapors, rats, mice, snakes or vermin of any kind, presence of hazardous materials, dilapidation, deterioration, decay or abandonment or unreasonably overgrown vegetation. Also any property that is deemed unsafe or improperly secured and determined by the enforcement officer to be detrimental to life, health or safety could constitute a nuisance.
Adding graffiti to the list would give the city legal standing to address the problem.
“We didn’t have any enforcement power before,” Ms. Staab said.
Members of the planning board, during its discussion of the proposed amendment, expressed concern that murals or outdoor artwork could be deemed graffiti, but Chairman Curtis Fleshman said the measure was specific in applying only to vandalism.
Meanwhile, another city-initiated request approved during the planning board meeting and on the agenda for council consideration Tuesday is a measure to correct mainly clerical issues in the code and address minor discrepancies and redundancies.
For example, the code currently defines setbacks for single-family residences in the Medical Arts-MA zoning district. The proposed amendment would eliminate such setback requirements because single-family residences are neither a permitted or special use in the MA district.
Proposed changes are also included to clarify requirements regarding business residences in the Downtown Business-DB and Downtown Commercial-CD zoning districts and to clarify the required phases of approval for minor subdivisions.
Other changes include replacing words such as “or” with “of” or correcting verb tenses or misspelled words in the code.
Contact Mark Hibbs at 252-726-7081, ext. 229; email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter @markhibbs.