Neighborhood Stabilization and Business Support Are Main Goals

Starting July 1, the City of Fort Wayne’s Neighborhood Code Enforcement Department will start enforcing the City’s new Commercial Code that ensures commercial properties have a level of maintenance that enhances neighborhoods and encourages investment.

Cindy Joyner, NCE director, and her staff are working to finalize all the details before the first-ever commercial code goes into effect for properties within the city.

Joyner and I have shared in the community frustration about commercial properties that had fallen into disrepair and blight. For a long time, we had no tools to use with landlords or property owners who did not take care of their properties unless they were so far gone as to be a health and safety hazard. With the creation of Chapter 150 of the Municipal Code, we now have a process with which to address neighbors’ concerns about commercial property that is dragging down their property values and negatively impacting their quality of life.

I believe the Code is important in helping to stimulate investment throughout the community. We are grateful to the Southeast Area Strategy group for finally raising this issue to a higher level of awareness and getting the Code revised, yet we recognize the problem exists in all sectors of our community. As we begin to work with the owners of these blighted properties, the neighbors will see that we are serious about improving the appearance of their area; and as the attractiveness grows, the property values will also likely increase, generating more interest in more investment, a cycle we want to encourage.

Earlier this year, City Council approved the new Commercial Code, as well as changes to the Residential Code. While NCE has had the authority to cite residential properties that violated standards, this is the first time the department will be able to address issues on commercial structures such as sagging gutters, broken windows or a deteriorating exterior.

Enforcement will be complaint-driven. Joyner says our goal is to work with the property owner. If an inspector finds violations, the owner will receive a 60-day notice to bring the property into compliance. As long as the department agrees that the owner is making a good-faith effort to resolve the issues, there will be no civil penalties assessed. Owners will be asked to work with NCE to establish a work plan and set timelines for specific tasks to be completed. The key is to work together. As long as we see progress being made, we will continue to work with them.

For those properties where there is no response or where there is little or no work being done, NCE will issue an Order to Repair which means there will be a hearing in front of a hearing officer. The hearing officer can set a compliance date and/or assess a civil penalty (a fine), which can be attached as a lien to the property.

Commercial buildings, hotels, and apartments with four or more units fall under this Commercial Code. Previously, citations could only be given to interiors of individual apartments, which meant public spaces like hallways, laundry facilities and stairwells were not under NCE jurisdiction. The new approach will allow problems to be addressed in a more holistic way. With the revisions to the residential part of the Code, enforcement will now be more consistently and fairly applied to all property owners.

This new Code allows us to strengthen and stabilize both the business community and the neighborhoods. We want to be very clear that we welcome new investment and will protect existing investment in our neighborhoods, both residential and commercial.

The Waynedale News Staff
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