Proposed code amendment on agenda

Vandalism such as this graffiti on the side of a building on 12th Street in Morehead City would be addressed in a proposed code amendment on the council’s agenda for Tuesday. (Dylan Ray photo)

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 mark@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @markhibbs.

(10) comments

NC-Native-Son

Out on a limb here but a new way of working it would be night foot patrol of the business district by the police department.

rukidding

Instead of targeting working people maybe the MHC PD should protect property owners. The council's solution is penalize the property owner for the acts of some low lifes. Now thats just great. You work hard, buy property, pay your taxes and expect protection, deserve proptection is more like it. Along comes the scum of the earth, vandalizes your building and you have to pay to clean it up. Maybe the town should have to pay to clean it up. The taxpayer already paid the city for "coverage". This happened on or next to the main street of the city. What are the police doing?

David Collins

One tool you can use is treble damages. Catch them, they pay three times the total cost. That or jail for several months, with the same penalty. Nothing like hitting them in the pocket book. Can't pay then it's rocks to dust?

movinonup

You'all don't understand. It is much easier to blame and force the property owner than it is to prevent it by the police dept. Also, don't we have inmates that should be out performing civic duty. Maybe if any inmate that volunteers to clean, for every hour he cleans, it is an hour off his sentence.
Blaming and forcing the tax paying property owner is not the solution. It is the lazy way out.

aonorio

There seems to be more here than meets the eyes folks. The graffiti says Obama lied, people died. The truth hurts for some. Lets petition the city to erect a monument for the Bengazi killings by the Obama administration, then clean up the building.

morehood city res

dont forget to make one for all of the people that died in iraq after G.Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction that never existed.

Drime

MHC has one of the poorest excuses for a police dept and it shows. Asking property owners to pay for cleaning up for a crime that has been committed !!!, But that's how the pd rolls in Morehead.

Seabreeze

For some reason I don't GB did the research to cume up with WMD but the CIA and advisors... ...A man of honor takes responsibility and doesn't blame everyone else and that is exactly what GB did. We all know it was the information feed to him and he had to act in the best interest of the USA to the best of his abilitly. Had the situation been reversed we probably wouldn't have an east coast anymore if they did have WMD and we reached our hand out in friendship.

David Collins

Actually MHC has the tools. A can of paint, a roller and an inmate or two.

'Porter

Graffiti should be prevented by well patrolled streets... Except in Morehead the only time the popo are patrolling is to meet their monthly quota of traffic stops... Another excuse to say farewell to the american dream, when business owners are forced to handle the behavior of delinquents rather than the police.

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