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Madras' updated city nuisance and abatement ordinance allows the city to fine violators.

HOLLY M. GILL - A boarded up house, which once sat on U.S. Highway 97, across from McDonald's, was one of the city's first code enforcement projects under its earlier nuisance and abatement ordinance.If you happen to notice a nuisance as you drive around Madras — maybe piles of rubbish or an abandoned vehicle, the city wants to hear from you as it works to enforce city codes.

The city has updated its nuisance and abatement ordinance, which is designed "to secure, protect, and ensure public health, safety, and welfare insofar as they are affected by the occupancy and maintenance of buildings, structures and property." In addition to notifying property owners of violations, and potentially placing a lien on a property, the city will also have the capacity to cite and fine property owners for failing to take action.

"Survey results that the city received from the communitywide survey last winter indicated that code enforcement was a top concern of our residents," said Morgan Greenwood, assistant planner for the Madras Community Development Department. "In house, we noticed that the established protocol hadn't been yielding results that we found satisfactory."

The city's Ordinance No. 875 addresses nuisances on private property and public right-of-way, and includes two main categories: noxious weeds and other nuisances, she noted.

"Most reported cases consist of an accumulation of debris, refuse, attractive nuisances (inoperable vehicles, broken appliances, etc.) and other hazards to health and livability," Greenwood reported.

"Noxious weed enforcement was stepped up this spring; staff walked the streets and identified properties where noxious weeds were growing (due to complaints from our local farmers, this will continue next year, as well) and sent notice letters," she said, estimating that the city sent out about 200 letters.

"I receive an average of four nuisance notices a month (more in the summer months than winter months)," said Greenwood.

Although code enforcement cases will continue to be driven by complaints, the city has adopted new standards for follow-up.

"Currently, a notice of violation is issued to the property owner and the resident, but no citations are issued," said Greenwood. "In many cases, it takes months to address a violation, and the city frequently incurs significant legal and abatement fees (not to mention staff time)."

"Under the new process, all violations will be treated equally (in that, every violation will receive a notice, the same timeline in which to address the violation, and then a fine of the same amount)," she said.

Property owners and residents will be given ample time to deal with the nuisance before the citation of "not less than $500" is issued.

"The objective of the change in process is to increase compliance and reduce staff time and taxpayer dollars on code enforcement," said Greenwood.

To report a code violation, fill out a form available on the city's website at www.ci.madras.or.us/contact, call the city at 541-475-2344, or visit the Madras City Hall at 125 SW E St.

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