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Stiffer enforcement of housing codes urged for Mooresville

By MEGAN PILLOW
Mooresville Tribune
Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Mooresville’s newest town commissioner took a strong stand Monday night against what he sees as one of the town’s most pervasive problems: enforcement of housing and building codes.

At-Large Commissioner Miles Atkins, who was elected in November, told the board that issues such as tall grass, junk cars, and houses in disrepair appeared on his radar at the candidates’ forum held last fall in the Mill Village. Residents, he said, asked the candidates to talk specifically about how they will combat the problem.

“It’s become very clear that we need to have strong code enforcement,” he said.

Atkins said the problems relating to code enforcement seem to follow several trends. First of all, he said, the problems usually are not caused by individual homeowners on fixed incomes, who he said deserve the town’s help when they have a problem, nor from the majority of responsible landlords who might have an occasional slip-up.

Instead, said Atkins, the problems stem primarily from a “select group” of landlords who own several rental houses and who continually receive notices of violation for problems related to those houses.

He asked that the board direct town staff to explore updating the town’s code enforcement policies and its minimum housing standards so that they are more effective in combating these repeat offenders.

“We need to send a clear message to them that their days are numbered and we no longer want them in Mooresville,” he said.

Commissioner Frank Rader said the board should be careful to make sure the policies punish the actions, not the people. The revisions, he said, will be a “cultural change” from the long-time policy of “patience, patience, patience” with offenders.

“It’s a big change,” Rader said.

Commissioner Chris Carney said Atkins’ point was well-taken, but the board also needs to keep in mind the “absentee landlords” who may live in another state who have inherited Mooresville property and cannot keep a close eye on their renters.

“Let’s not penalize the owner who lives too far away,” Carney said.

Local resident Ellen Patterson said the town’s code enforcement officer, Michael Harper, has done a good job dealing with the code enforcement problems in her neighborhood, but there is still more to be done.

Mayor Bill Thunberg then directed the planning department staff to bring new code enforcement recommendations to the town board’s February retreat.

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Mooresville Mill Village Initiative
last updated March 8, 2008