Out with the old...in with the new.  In their ongoing effort to revise and revamp some outdated city ordinances, the Athens City Council this week voted unanimously to implement a new ordinance regulating vacant and substandard structures in the city.

Additionally, ordinances A-3031, A-3038 and 38-91, were all repealed.

The new ordinance provides for the securing of vacant or substandard structures, as well as the repair, removal or demolition of uninhabitable buildings in the city.

In recent weeks, some property owners have begun to be proactive in addressing their substandard properties in advance of the new ordinance. 

Houses on East Tyler Street and State Highway 19 South have been torn down, and the properties cleaned up.  Several other properties around town have been secured or cleaned.

Still, proponents of the new ordinance say that there is much to be done when it comes to cleaning up our city.

At a recent city council meeting, Athens resident Charles Spann, once again, addressed the council concerning the issue.

“I would encourage each of you to personally express your commitment in enforcing this new ordinance,” Spann said. 

He emphasized that cleaning up the city would take the commitment of all of the city officials involved.

According to the new measure, violators will be subject to “...criminal penalties with maximum criminal penalty of $2,000 for violation, and civil penalties with maximum civil penalty of $1,000 for violation....” 

In addition, property owners will be held responsible for the costs associated with securing, cleaning or demolishing substandard properties, should the city incur those costs.

City officials and concerned citizens alike have started to take notice of the so-called substandard structures, and according to city officials, owners of these properties can expect action from the city in the near future.

In recent months, the city has also cracked down on properties with overgrown weeds, standing water or old boats and cars, through the passage of its nuisance ordinance.  The ordinance calls for tougher enforcement against property owners who neglect their property, or refuse to keep it clean. 

Like the substandard-structure ordinance passed this week, violators of the nuisance ordinance are subject to penalties, and the city could place a lien on the property in an effort to recoup the costs associated with cleaning up.

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