Blight affects all communities, and the City of Duncan works to address both the issues that cause blight as well as the impacts that result from blight throughout our community.
Economic disinvestment in properties and the withdraw of industry increases unemployment and worker migration which leads to vacancy and deterioration. The vacancies in turn reduce tax revenue for our community, which could result in reductions to public services. Reductions in public services lead to further economic disinvestment which furthers the negative spiral of blight throughout the community.
Thankfully, the City of Duncan seeks to turn community blight into community benefit through proper code enforcement practices as prescribed by State Statute, local adopted codes and policies, and through partnerships with community members seeking to reinvest in the Duncan community.
There are four main focus points for City of Duncan Code Enforcement Officers as they try to address blight throughout the community:
- Trash & Weeds – the most common complaint from citizens is the general upkeep of properties in which there may or may not be residents
- Dilapidated Structures – frequently abandoned structures due to fires, storm damage, structural issues, and even through foreclosure
- Graffiti – more than just paint on a wall, messages may send an emotional statement of decline and strike fear in the hearts of our citizens
- Inoperable Vehicles – flat tires, missing windshields, improper licenses and registrations, missing motors are just a few things that may deem a vehicle to be inoperable
Citizens are encouraged to assist in this process by utilizing the DunCAN app.
Oklahoma State Statute gives local governing bodies the ability to address blight within the community. Most often, this local process starts by following State Statute 11-22-112.1 that addresses the boarding and securing of structures. The Statute requires that due process is provided to the last known owner per county tax records and at least ten days is provided for corrective action to occur.
If work is not done, the property may be declared dilapidated and a common nuisance to the community and may be ordered to be boarded and secured. This order is sent out as part of the local bid packet through Code Enforcement where the lowest and best bid is selected. Boarded and secured structures may be declared as a dilapidated structure after 18 months of being a boarded-up structure.
Per State Statute, once the structure has been boarded and secured for 18 months it may be declared as a Dilapidated Structure. A hearing, providing the last known owner of record per county tax records, is again provided due process to address the violations. Failure to address the violations may result in the property being declared and an order to tear the structure down is sent out for bid. The lowest and best bids are approved by City Council to provide an additional notice of a public hearing for any owner seeking to save their structures.
The Department of Community Development and Code Enforcement has processed 58 “Board and Secure” cases so far in 2022. In addition to those cases fourteen properties have been declared dilapidated and have been ordered to be demolished. The average cost of demolition for a declared structure costs the City of Duncan approximately $3,969.00 per structure torn down by the City of Duncan.
Year to date, the Department has ordered 15 properties to be torn down or a permit be pulled for reconstruction. These are broken down as follows:
- 11 structures have been removed by the City of Duncan
- 1 structure was torn down by owner at their expenses
- 3 structures the owners have pulled permits and have started making necessary repairs.
At this time, there are five additional properties that orders will be sent out before the year is up.
Trash and weed complaints are the bulk of the violation cases that the City of Duncan Code Enforcement processes each year averaging about 900 unique cases yearly.
State Statute provides the steps that must be followed by the City of Duncan in processing violations to allow proper due process to the property owner and/or tenant in which a violation has been observed.
The process can be lengthy, and cleanup does not occur over night. The basic steps that must be followed include:
- Complaint received and/or observed by Code Enforcement.
- Code Enforcement Officer documents all violations by taking photos.
- Code Enforcement researches the property owner information by utilizing county property tax records.
- A notice of violation is prepared, setting a hearing date, and sent to the owner of record by certificate of mailing as well as physically posting a notice to the property.
- Come the hearing date, the Code Enforcement Officer will inspect the property again. If brought into compliance the case is closed.
- If the property is not brought into compliance by the hearing date, then a public hearing will be held to declare the property as a common public nuisance.
- Once declared a public nuisance, bid packets are prepared instructing local contractors of the work that must be done to bring the property into compliance with all applicable city codes.
- Local contractors submit their lowest and best bid for consideration as a “sealed bid” that will be reviewed for considerations on a set date each week.
- The winning local contractor is typically given one week to complete the awarded work, submit before and after pictures, and receive their payment.
- Invoices are sent to the property owner for the work that has been done and notice of liens are filed with the courthouse against the property.
The process, from start to finish may take as long as one month before neighbors will see progress as due process has to be established and provided to the owner and/or tenant. Properties given violations notices through the State Statute process are only required to receive a notice once every six months – a subsequent violation of the same will be abated by the City of Duncan through the bidding process.
Oklahoma State Statute 11 O.S. 22-112.2(A) provides the means in which a municipality may address graffiti throughout the community. In most cases involving graffiti, the municipality may seek removal through a series of public meetings in which property owners are given notice of the violations.
Section 10-214 of the City of Duncan City Code further defines what constitutes as being graffiti as well as potential fines that are associated with those caught applying graffiti throughout the community. Code Enforcement does process complaints regarding graffiti and will work with property owners to see that the property is brought up to state and local code requirements.
Often associated with graffiti is the use of insulting signage, literature or language that might occur. Section 10-303 of the City of Duncan City Code addresses these instances, in which Code Enforcement may process notices of violation.
Municipalities like the City of Duncan draw statutory structure for inoperable vehicles ordinances from the following State Statutes:
- 21 O.S. 40-1048: Storage or accumulation of wrecked or abandoned motor vehicle or part thereof within view of preexisting residence.
- 47 O.S. 72-954.A: Abandoned motor vehicle removal
- 47 O.S. 1114.1: Duty to seize vehicles not bearing or displaying proper license plate.
Towing from Public Property:
- Involves public rights-of-way or city-owned lands
- Due process rules DO NOT apply
- Can tow for over-parking or expired vehicle registration
- Vehicle must be marked for tow using a standard notice
- Photos are taken showing the vehicle on public property
- Processing and impound procedures as established are followed
Towing from Private Property:
- Must be able to access the vehicle without damaging property
- Due process rules DO apply
- Vehicle should show multiple inoperable violations
- Vehicle must be marked for tow using standard notice and notice provided to owner by certificate of mailing
- Photos are taken showing the vehicle on private property with multiple inoperable violations
- Processing and impound procedures as established are followed
For due process purposes, Code Enforcement is addressing the public nuisance which is caused by an inoperable vehicle upon private property and notification for such is sent to those who legally control the property. If the vehicle is towed, the wrecker service is required by State Statute to provide due process notification to the vehicle owner and any lien holders.