STANTON — Slumlords in Stanton are about to get a big surprise.
A set of ordinances unanimously adopted at the Stanton City Commission’s Tuesday night meeting sets aside $150,000 of city funds to be used for the prosecution of owners of dilapidated or abandoned housing and the subsequent demolition and removal of same.
According to City Manager James Freed, the city now has “the teeth” to go after the owners of some of Stanton’s most blighted properties.
“There’s about 20 buildings that are simply beyond repair,” Freed said. “The current ordinance is not enough. We’re going after the people who have the slums. If you have broken windows and collapsed roofs, we’re going to prosecute you.
“This blight is a cancer on our neighborhoods and we’re going to cut it out,” he said. “For families in Stanton, their home is their greatest investment. We’re going to protect that.”
Freed noted that most homes in Stanton — 485 out of 500 is the figure he used — are well maintained. It’s the remaining 15 that are bringing property values down for the rest of the community, he said.
The first 10 homes on the list Freed plans to “go after” are currently unoccupied, or at the very least not occupied by the home’s owner. Some, he said, have been sold on land contract in an effort to avoid rental inspection requirements.
“What these slumlords do is prey on poverty-stricken people and sell to them on land contract,” Freed said.
Commissioner Karl Yoder voiced concerns that the ordinance could be used indiscriminately and inadvertently displace some of the same people it is meant to protect.
“I’ve lived in several different kinds of communities,” Yoder said. “In big cities and way back in the hills of Kentucky, in small towns, in medium sized towns. And I’ve observed that people live differently all over the place.
“I want to make sure this ordinance doesn’t say, ‘I don’t like the way you live, so I’m going to tear your house down,’” he said. “The emphasis should be on dilapidated and unsafe property.”
Commissioner Krista King echoed Yoder’s sentiments, saying the city should make sure due process is observed in each individual case.
Freed assured the commission he plans to target only the worst homes, those with major structural defects, owned by landlords who have previously refused to make needed improvements.
“There’s a difference between (bad) taste and blight,” Freed said. “We have a little blight and we need to cut it out before it becomes a contagion. I can’t name even one case where we’re planning to go after a home that someone is living in.”
The ordinance, which Freed plans to publish in Friday’s Daily News, will mark the beginning of a 10-day wait period, after which the ordinance will go into effect.
In other business, commissioners discussed the city’s current road improvement project. According to engineers, the first phase of the project is nearing completion and most city roads under construction will be “put back together” within the next two weeks.
Some areas receiving new water and sewer mains will likely be part of an ongoing project that could last into the spring. Contractors blame the extended end date as a result of the project getting under way later than originally planned.
Freed noted that, though he has received some complaints about the chaos caused by the project — as well as occasional utility service interruptions — most Stanton residents he’s talked with have been “more gracious” than he had anticipated at the start of the project.
Finally, the commission discussed new picnic tables that will be going into the downtown area soon. The tables, which are bolted to the sidewalk, will feature sun umbrellas, at least until October, when the umbrellas will be taken in for the season.