Town Talk: Is the city taking action on blighted properties?

New Ulm is known to be a clean, attractive city in the scenic Minnesota River Valley. For some time, some of its citizens have expressed concerns about certain areas or properties that present unsafe, unsanitary, or blighted conditions. The City Council has appointed a Blight Committee that is currently reviewing our existing City Code to see if our ordinances should be amended or supplemented to address these conditions, and it will report its recommendations to the Council when its review is complied. In the meantime, an enhanced effort will be made to insure that our existing blight ordinances are enforced.

One of the main provisions of New Ulm City Code on this issue is:

Section 8.63. Junk cars, household furnishings, etc. stored on public or private property. It is unlawful to place or store any:

A. unlicensed, unregistered, or inoperable motor vehicle, trailer, or recreational vehicle;

B. household furnishings, or appliances, or parts or components thereof; or

C. pieces, chunks, or blocks of concrete, wood, or other building materials, except as part of a structure, sidewalk, driveway, or curb

On public or private property other than a properly zoned junkyard, unless housed within a lawfully erected building. . .

This section provides that a violation is a nuisance, and that the City may send the owner of the property a 7-day written notice to remove the unlawful property. If the vehicles or junk is not removed, the City may do so, and collect the cost of removal as a special assessment against the property. The ordinance is written to give the offending property owner the opportunity to clean up and remove the items that create the violation, but also allows the City to step in and remove the materials if the owner fails to do so — at the owner’s expense.

Section 8.63 has customarily been enforced by the New Ulm Police Department, but any City employee may be assigned to assist with this work. Inspections consist of a visual observation of the property, and may include taking photos or other documentation of a violation. If a violation is found, a letter is sent to the owner of the property, as established by the records on file with the Brown County Auditor. The letter will describe the items or property that needs to be removed, and will also state the deadline for removal. After the deadline is passed, the property is inspected again to see if the violation has been corrected; if it has not, further action may be taken by the City to clean up the property, with the charge being assessed against the property being added to its annual real estate taxes. Depending upon the type of property removed by the City, the property may be disposed of as waste, or sold after complying with the procedures and notice that apply.

Although there are no seasonal exceptions to Section 8.63, the challenges of removing property during the winter are understood. However, this Spring the City will be increasing the number of people assigned to both address complaints of blight and inspect for violations. Please take an honest look at your own yards and property; if there are vehicles, household materials or other debris, either dispose of it properly or store it inside of a building.

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Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to comments@ci.new-ulm.mn.us.

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