Letter: Vacant property rules need a careful re-write

To the editor:

(The author submitted this letter along with suggested changes to the proposed Vacant Property Ordinance to the Tiverton Town Council).

The proposed Vacant Property Ordinance is desperately needed in Tiverton to protect property owners from the problems that are directly and/or indirectly caused by the vacant properties. However, the proposed ordinance has been poorly written and as written will create many more problem than it corrects.

The Vacant Property Ordinance should be carefully crafted to protect the people and the properties in Tiverton by carefully defining the causes and the root causes of the problems associated with the vacant properties while avoiding any avoidable violation (direct and/or indirect, as well as intended and/or unintended) of the personal and the property rights of individuals. The ordinance as written does not accomplish that task, and I believe that my comments and requested changes will correct that problem.

First, the ordinance must (to the maximum extent practicable) carefully exclude the property of people who are on vacation, and/or on business trips, and/or away on personal business. That does not mean that it should ignore property that is totally abandoned for a winter in Florida. My requested changes address that issue.

Second, the ordinance must not be used to craft a separate set of maintenance requirements for homes and yards, and it must not give any Tiverton official the authority to use and/or abuse the ordinance to impose a set of maintenance requirements for homes and yards. Therefore, requirements must be carefully crafted to accurately define requirements and not be left subjective, for the interpretation of others.  In order to accomplish this, any maintenance requirements for vacant properties must be loose enough to avoid creating a set of maintenance requirements for vacant homes that is stricter than for occupied homes. Words like “overgrown vegetation” without carefully added descriptions must be avoided. Descriptions, such as overgrown vegetation that covers the sidewalk or walkway to the door, must be added.  It should be assumed that a separate ordinance for acceptable property and yard maintenance is in existence, or will soon be written to protect neighboring properties from property devaluation and/or safety problems such as trees and bushes blocking sidewalks, and/or blocking the view at corners and driveways.

Please carefully consider all comments and corrections.

Roger A. Bennis

Tiverton

 

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