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Longview: New code for property maintenance obeyed

By Jimmy Isaac
March 19, 2017 at 11:54 p.m.

2009 S. Green Street on Friday March 17, 2017. (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)

Nearly a year in to a new program intended to help clean up Longview neighborhoods, city leaders say residents and property owners are responding positively to the changes.

"So far, it's been pretty good," said Code Compliance Inspector Eddie Pickard. "We've had about 95 percent compliance on it so far."

Last April, the City Council updated Longview's property maintenance code to meet 2012 International Code Council standards. It was a result, in part, of residents' complaints about substandard homes and structures in their neighborhoods and the city's attempt to address such concerns.

It also was part of a continuing city effort to address root causes of crime — officials have said property maintenance can help keep crime from finding certain neighborhoods attractive.

The code deals with multiple requirements regarding light, ventilation and occupancy limitations; plumbing facilities and fixtures; mechanical and electrical; fire safety; and other general requirements about property exteriors and interiors.

If a structure is in poor shape, needs paint, has rotted wood and broken windows, it's usually a target for property maintenance code inspections — though most are complaint-driven issues, Pickard said.

Sometimes, residents who complain about a property aren't happy when it takes a while to bring it into compliance, but that's because a process must be followed. Court hearings, junk vehicle tow warrants and simply getting people into court often takes time and patience.

"We can't just say, 'Hey, you take care of it,' and expect it to get taken care of, Pickard said. "It could take up to 45 days because of due process of law."

Since the new rules took effect, Longview code officers have worked about a dozen addresses, including eight since Jan. 1, according to Code Compliance Supervisor Kenneth James.

Tracking the exact number of property maintenance code inquiries is difficult, Pickard and officers said, because the city's database doesn't track International Property Maintenance Code cases. But that's being addressed, too.

"We are still developing different internal controls to better organize code complaints," said Development Services Coordinator Vance Wyly.

A structure at 406 E. Magrill St. was the first property to be addressed under the new rules.

Since July 22, officers have worked with the property owner, who is performing "major refurbishing or exterior wood, painting and new roof on both structures" at the address, James said. The property remains under remediation.

Another structure, at 2009 S. Green St., is slated for demolition by the owner, Pickard said, because of the property maintenance code. Officers noticed rotted wood and windows as well as severe roof damage at the two-story structure and began working the process.

"The landlord just decided he's going to just level the structure rather than fix it," Pickard said.

Another complaint had to do with a backyard storage shed that was in need of repair. Officers took pictures last week and sent a citation to the shed's owner to begin the process to clean it up.

Meanwhile, officers have reached compliance with properties across the city, including downtown, Judson Road north of Hawkins Parkway and in the Pine Tree area.

"The Code Department works with the exterior of a structure, minor issues," James said. "If the work on a structure involves building permits, then it will fall to the Building Department."

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