Abandoned house program structure discussed

Code Enforcement Director Corey Williams appeared before the Land Planning and Development Committee on February 15 to explain the procedural guidelines regarding abandoned structures.

Before the presentation began, Land Planning and Development Chair Bobby Gupton noted to Williams that it seemed as if he were going after one owner in one ward.

Henderson City Council member Elissa Yount, a guest at the meeting, stated a need to have a different ratio of houses and owners identified from all of the city’s wards.

“It may be coincidence that it happened this way,” Williams said in his own defense.

Gupton noted that it would be embarrassing if two more houses came up and they belonged to Kenneth Stevenson.

Stevenson had two of his houses ordered demolished by the council on February 13. He was, however, granted a stay to bring the structures up to code.

Williams then began his presentation, referring to a chart and to handouts outlining the process by which a structure is identified as abandoned. According to Williams, it takes 120 days to identify a house as abandoned, according to city code. From that point, it can take an additional 174 of procedural work to demolish a house. If the council chooses to enter into a stay agreement, it can take up to 444 days for the house to either be brought into compliance or demolished.

A stay has a potential maximum of 150 days.

Williams proposed some changes to the civil penalty process. Currently, the fine for non-compliance is $10 per day with a maximum of $4,500. He would like to see that raised to $50 per day with a maximum of $5,000.

As it stands now, stay agreements are signed by the city manager. Williams would like to see the agreements signed by the mayor. Also, if the structure is brought into compliance within the specified time, he would like to see the civil penalties voided. However, if the agreement is not met, he would like to see the civil penalty applied retroactively from the initial date it was issued.

Yount made it clear that she does not support more stay agreements. She also stated that the city needs to get the attention of would-be violators. She said that the manager rather than the mayor should sign demolition orders because the council manages the manager.

No one manages the mayor, she stated.