County preparing update of nuisance ordinance

Published 4:24 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The Harlan County Fiscal Court is working to update the county’s nuisance ordinance to address the issue of blighted and nuisance property more efficiently throughout the county. The court recently discussed the issue during the regular Fiscal Court meeting.

“We’ve been talking for a couple years about the nuisance ordinance in general,” Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley said. “We’ve talked a lot about blighted structures, and in particular, we budgeted some money to address some of those facilities out in the county.”

Mosley noted he would like to focus on blighted structures in high-visibility areas of the county.

Email newsletter signup

“I’d really like to focus on ones that are on corridor – highly traveled – roads, because of the first impression when you drive into the county,” Mosley said. “I’m going to talk about Cranks Creed for a minute when you come off that mountain – of course, we’re getting ready to have a major highway project take place out there in the next few months – when you come off that mountain, you’re going to pass seven abandoned or burned structures within about three-tenths of a mile that have not been eradicated. That’s not the first impression I think any of us want people to have when they come into the county. It’s a nuisance to the people that live around the area, and it’s a nuisance for people that drive by it.”

Mosley also mentioned a structure near the Harlan County/Bell County line.

“There used to be a little store that used to be there,” Mosley said. “These structures that are very close to the highway and fall under the nuisance category are ones that I think would be good to prioritize initially.”

According to Mosley, there has been an issue with recouping funds spent by the county to demolish blighted property if the property is later sold.

“There have been some laws created that I think were a great attempt to help, but unfortunately it created such a court process that was associated with it at the Circuit Court level, it would take years,” Mosley said. “Obviously, we can’t spend – and we’re not going to spend – hundreds of thousands of dollars eliminating properties.”

Mosley called on Solid Waste Enforcement/Flood Plane Coordinator Tony Felosi to update the magistrates on some proposed adjustments to the county’s nuisance ordinance.

“I think as far as the structures go, we’re pretty good,” Felosi said. “In the ordinance, it gives the Fiscal Court the ability to declare it a nuisance.”

Harlan County Attorney Fred Busroe explained the landowner could take the matter to court. He pointed out a cost analysis would then need to be done, agreeing that spending a large amount of money on a property that would only be worth a small percentage of that cost may not be a beneficial course of action.

Mosley asked Busroe what position the county would be in relative to judgments from other entities with a claim on the property.

“It would be a timing issue,” Busroe said. “Our lien would fall into line behind things that were already filed…I think we’d have pretty good standing by and large most of the time.”

Magistrate Paul Browning added return on investment should be considered when dealing with blighted property.

“This is something where you actually get a return on your investment,” Browning said. “Now, is it immediate? No. You’re not putting a dollar in and getting two dollars back the next day. But, when you have a blighted or abandoned property in the middle of five, six, or 10 other properties, as that thing goes down those properties’ around it values go down as well. When you take that rotten apple out of the bunch, the property values around it go up.”

Browning stated with tourism projects around the area expected to go into operation in the upcoming months, nuisance properties should be dealt with quickly as possible.

“When warm weather comes, you’re going to start seeing a ton of traffic,” Browning said. “You only make one first impression, and this is our best step to making a good impression.”

Following some further discussion, Mosley said a proposed amended nuisance ordinance be ready for a first reading by the next Fiscal Court meeting in April.