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A coalition of Granite Shoals city councilors, city staff, and residents is reviewing the city’s property maintenance ordinance. The working group will look over the document line by line and determine what, if any, changes need to be made. 

The ordinance is the rulebook for managing all properties in the city, including restrictions on junk cars and unkempt lawns.

The working group was formed during the City Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, June 11, after weeks of discussion. Residents had pushed back on what they called “subjective” language in proposed changes to the property maintenance ordinance, and the council responded by forming the group. The city hopes it will result in well-rounded input on potential adjustments to the rules.

The group consists of councilors Catherine Bell and Mike Pfister, Code Enforcement Officer Preston Williams, Fire Chief Tim Campbell, Streets and Parks crew leader Humberto Mejia, and residents Bobbi Deberard, Terri Fletcher, Janet Walden, Robin Ruff, Peter Hutnick, Edna Dunger, and Phil Ort.

“(The working group) will hammer through (the ordinance) word by word, sentence by sentence,” said Mayor Pro Tem Steve Hougen in an interview with DailyTrib.com after the council vote. “It’s a lot of work.”

According to Hougen, the council has talked about changes to property maintenance rules since at least 2021. The main goal is to make the ordinance more enforceable by the Granite Shoals Police Department while respecting the property rights of residents.

“Property rights in Texas should be honored, but with those rights, there are certain responsibilities, kind of like following the golden rule for your neighbors,” Hougen said. “The word ‘aesthetic’ was first used in 2008 (when the ordinance was originally created), but that word is hard to define. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One person’s trash is another’s treasure. We all have different views.”

The purpose of the city’s current property maintenance ordinance is to “provide minimum standards and regulations to help safeguard and preserve life or limb, property, and public welfare by regulating the use and maintenance of the exteriors of all structures, buildings, and properties within the city,” according to the document.

The ordinance is broad, covering everything from what a property “nuisance” is to how much you can be fined for said nuisance. Fencing, trash storage, junk vehicles, landscaping, weed height, and dilapidated buildings are all include.

The working group will meet over the next three months and draft recommended changes to the ordinance that will be presented to the City Council. The group cannot make any changes themselves. The council will have the final say.

“The public is invited to throw their suggestions in,” Hougen said. “When the product is presented, it will come to the city for approval, and there could be some tweaks or changes.”

The group will function independently and does not have to follow the Texas Open Meetings Act. Members will be able to discuss their work at will without the constraints of 72-hour meeting notices, agendas, or minutes.

“The working group could hold a public meeting if it chose to, but the whole concept is for this working group to work together to come up with these changes to present to council,” said acting City Attorney Claudia Russel, who was standing in for the city’s regular attorney, Josh Katz. 

The group will first meet on June 19 to select its own chair and get to work reviewing the ordinance. The City Council set a three-month time limit for the job, which should be completed by August.

dakota@thepicayune.com