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Granite Shoals eyes changes to property maintenance codes

Granite Shoals Code Enforcement Officer Preston Williams points to one of the problem properties with which he’s dealt during a May 2023 outing. Junk vehicles, dilapidated structures, mangled fences, and general piles of trash are consistent problems in certain parts of the city. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Proposed changes to a Granite Shoals property maintenance ordinance came under fire from residents worried about vague, undefined words and government encroachment on individual property rights. 

“The word ‘aesthetics,’ I think it is subjective and cannot have healthy enforcement,” said resident Robin Deberard during public comment at the May 14 meeting of the Granite Shoals City Council. 

The council is considering changes to the property code that governs the do’s and don’ts of residential property maintenance. Under consideration is new language that would make it clear residents are responsible for maintaining their land all the way up to the street. 

“Really, one of the complaints we get from the citizens is to clean up the city,” Mayor Ron Munos told DailyTrib.com in an interview after the meeting. “They’re tired of driving around and seeing junk cars parked on blocks or dilapidated buildings that have fallen in.”

A decision was put on hold until the May 28 meeting after the council discovered the wrong material was included in the May 14 agenda packets. 

A now defunct version of potential changes to the ordinance was accidentally put in the agenda packet rather than the latest draft of changes, Munos said. 

“There was a mixup in the packet we got this week, and the wrong version of the property maintenance ordinance was sent out,” he said. “We hope the new, revised version will be a little more acceptable to the citizens.”

The City Council did not explain what the actual proposed changes were at that time, but Place 4 Councilor Steve Hougen said the term “aesthetics” was still featured in the proposed document.

“There are undefined words that are very subjective that have been criticized tonight and with online posts,” Hougen said. “Because what is objectionable to one person may be pure beauty to another. The word aesthetic was criticized, because what do you mean by aesthetic value? If we use the words we should define them.”

Deberard suggested the council involve Granite Shoals residents in any potential changes by scheduling town hall meetings, workshops, or a public hearing.

Another resident, Lynn Carlson, agreed and asked, “What problem are we trying to solve?”

Resident Roman Archer asked for careful consideration before any changes were made that would impact the “diverse city” of Granite Shoals.

“The one thing that we really need to understand is that we have a very, very diverse city culturally, ethnically, socioeconomically, etcetera,” he said. “We need to be very cognizant of these changes for any subjectivity, which can lead to bias. Yes, I’d like to see things more pleasing, but there’s ways to do that without taking away individual rights.”

Under city of Granite Shoals rules, code enforcement has the power to address major property maintenance issues, like junk cars, dilapidated structures, and overgrown landscaping. The current property maintenance code can be accessed via the city’s website

Mayor Munos told DailyTrib.com that it could be challenging finding a balance between property maintenance requirements and property rights.

“You certainly have the, ‘My home is my castle and I can do what I want’ argument, but the other side is saying, ‘Why should I maintain my house and cut my yard when my neighbor’s house is full of weeds and snakes?’” he said.

dakota@thepicayune.com