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Alpena sets its sight on blight

ALPENA — Alpena is setting itself up to take a tougher stance on blighted or inhabitable properties.

At its regular meeting Monday, the Alpena Municipal Council received the first reading of a new ordinance to address blight in the city.

The goal is to have blighted areas and structures cleaned up or repaired, and to prevent more blight in the future.

Alpena Mayor Matt Waligora said the city wanted to have it crystal clear what it considered blight and the proposed ordinance could do that. He said he hopes if approved, the ordinance will help make sure blighted properties are cleaned up.

“We often get complaints about people’s property that really aren’t acceptable under our intent, but maybe our intent wasn’t quite clear,” Waligora said. “This will give us the tools we need to enforce it and more clarity than just the word blight.”

The ordinance is broken down into several categories that outline what blight is, and what actions need to be taken to address it. All corrective actions fall to the property owner, or tenant.

JUNK AUTOMOBILES

The ordinance states that people can’t have more than one inoperable vehicle stored outside the dwelling or the garage of the dwelling. Any inoperable vehicle stored outside may not be stored in the front yard and must be properly covered with a cover manufactured for that purpose.

Vehicles used for demolition derbies or similar events can’t be stored in a front or side yard and only be stored or repaired in a rear yard. The vehicles also must be screened from view of neighboring property, rights-of-way, or be kept in a covered structure.

BUILDING MATERIALS

The ordinance would restrict the storage of building materials unsheltered, unless a valid building permit for construction was issued for the property and the materials are intended for use in connection with such construction.

After construction is complete, all construction debris shall be removed from the site within 30 days after the completion or abandonment of the work. Failure or refusal to remove a temporary building or construction debris, or abandonment of work, constitutes a violation of the ordinance.

JUNK

The ordinance will address the storage or accumulation of junk or garbage, or rubbish, of any kind. The exceptions are if it stored in a licensed junkyard or a covered container for a period not to exceed 30 days

Firewood that is neatly stacked and not providing a breeding ground for rodents and vermin is allowable, as is yard waste compost piles that are properly maintained to prevent odor, vermin or insect nuisances.

UNINHABITABLE STRUCTURES

Any structure or part of one that is damaged or destroyed by wind, or other disaster, and is determined to be habitable and is left in that condition for a period of more than six months, will face a possible civil infraction . Structures damaged or destroyed by fire fall into this category too.

Structures that are no longer livable because of deterioration of them will also be considered blight.

VACANT BUILDINGS

Buildings that are not being lived in must be maintained to avoid a public hazard or health threat. Vacant buildings must be kept securely locked and the windows kept glazed or neatly boarded up, to guard against vandals or trespassers.

UNMAINTAINED BUILDINGS

Structures that have become rundown due to a lack of maintenance must be addressed by the property owner or tenant . Buildings that show missing, broken or boarded up windows or doors, collapsing or missing walls, roof, or floors, or a structurally faulty foundation must be fixed or removed.

ENFORCEMENT

Any violations will be enforced by a city representative designated by the city manager. A person determined to have violated the blight regulations will be notified in writing to remove or eliminate the cause. The city may grant extension to people who are making progress on correcting the blight and show a level of progress deemed satisfactory to the enforcement officer. If no progress is made, a person is subject to pay the civil infraction.

Waligora said complaints about blight come from time-to-time, and in his mind blight isn’t a huge issue in the city. He said with more teeth to the ordinance, it should ensure it remains that way.

“I don’t think blight is ramped, but there are some areas we hear about once in a while,” he said. “It is in our best interest in making sure we keep the city looking great.”

In other business

Council voted to submit an application to the federal government to help cover the cost to replace the clear-wells at the water plant in Alpena. It is expected the city will know if they receive money by the fall. The cost of the well replacement exceeds $7 million. The city would provide a $2,296,200 match if the grant request is accepted.

Passed a reworked ordinance on medical marijuana in the city. A cap limiting the number of dispensaries to two was eliminated months ago, but the new ordinance clears up other issues discovered in the previous one.

Discussed a counter proposal to Alpena Township for providing fire services. The council had concerns on the length of the contract from the township, as well as an escalator clause that would cover the cost of inflation.

Voted to approve a noise variance for a music event to be held in the alley between Noise & Toys and The Fresh Palate. The event is slated for July 1 from 10 p.m. to midnight.

Mayor Matt Waligora declared the week of June 21-27 as Amateur Radio Week in the city.

Approved the appointment of Claire Kostelic to the zoning board of appeals for a three-year term that expires on July 1, 2024.

Council went into closed session to discuss an update regarding the proposed litigation with the Alpena Prototype Biorefinery, LLC, American Process, Inc., and GranBio LLC. There was no action when the council returned to closed session.

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