On Wednesday, city council members and the mayor met to discuss how to deal with unkempt properties, illegal signs, untagged vehicles in yards, and tarps draped over property.
The tarps are first up, and on Aug. 6 the council is expected to adopt an ordinance that prohibits “Any tarp, plastic sheeting, or other temporary covering on any dwelling house, building, fence, billboard, or other structure for a period of greater than 10 days.”
The proposed ordinance change would not apply to tarp, plastic sheeting or other temporary coverings used during construction or repairs.
The ordinance is modeled after one in the city of Powder Springs, which is near Austell.
If approved, Austell’s two part-time code enforcement officers would notify offenders via letter and the problem would have to be corrected within 10 days. If the problem is still not resolved at that time, the property owner would receive a citation and be required to appear before a municipal judge, who could issue up to $1,000 in fines or jail time, said Councilwoman Suzanne Thomason.
“It’s been an ongoing complaint of neighbors,” said Thomason, chairwoman of the community affairs committee, who called the meeting.
Austell has just two code enforcement officers, both of whom work part-time. Although the city is expected to raise its property-tax rate later this month, its fiscal 2013 budget is $5.72 million, is less than in recent years. There are no current plans to hire more code officers.
Community Affairs Director Jimmy Graham, who works with the city’s code enforcement officers, told the council that he thought the ordinances currently on the books are suitable to correct the problems. Councilman Martin Standard agreed.
“We have most of the ordinances that we need,” Standard said. “What we don’t have is enforcement.”
Councilwoman Trudie Causey said businesses are the main culprits, and that officials want to resolve such issues to attract new businesses to the city.
“I’ve heard a number of people complaining about their property values being down,” she said. “Until we get some of this cleaned up, nothing is going to change.”
The proposed ordinance change, which is expected to pass, will be discussed at a pre-agenda meeting and again at the regularly scheduled agenda council meeting before the vote. The council’s agenda meeting is set for 7 p.m. Aug. 6 at City Hall.
City Clerk Carolyn Duncan said the last time a change was made to the city’s ordinance was in 2002.