Property owners in Charleston will face harsher penalties and be subject to higher fines if they fail to address illegal activity happening on their property.
Charleston City Council on Monday night approved a measure more directly addressing property owners’ response to illegal activity happening at their properties.
Council approved the measure in a unanimous vote.
Under the revised ordinance, property owners will be notified of illegal activity by the Charleston Police Department. The owners will have 30 days to take action to eliminate the illegal activity. Every day that the owners are aware of the illegal activity and fail to take action counts as a separate misdemeanor offense. That action includes anything from talking to tenants and asking them to stop an activity to evicting tenants from the properties, said City Attorney Kevin Baker.
“We’re not trying to tell people how to manage their property,” Baker said. “The point is when there are houses that become such a nuisance to the community we have to address them and this is a way to hold the property owner responsible.”
If convicted, property owners would face up to $1,000 in fines for each conviction.
“This is going to help us hold some landlords accountable for some ongoing illegal activity on their premises,” Councilwoman Keeley Steele said.
Baker said the previous ordinance had not been heavily enforced in recent memory, calling it a “defunct ordinance.”
“This is a way to reinvigorate it and make it hopefully be useful to our police department going forward,” Baker said.
Council approved the measure the same evening city officials announced the U.S. Department of Justice awarded the city $800,000 in grants to continue its Quick Response Team, according to a news release.
The Quick Response Team visits people at home within 72 hours of a reported overdose with the goal of connecting them with resources for substance abuse disorder treatment.
The team includes an emergency medical services provider from the Charleston Fire Department, a Charleston Police officer and a substance abuse recovery coach.
“The outreach work conducted by the QRT offers a compassionate response to those who have overdosed,” Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin said in the news release. “Our team’s ability to connect individuals with support plays a vital role in addressing the opioid epidemic in Charleston.
Also during Monday’s meeting, City Council members approved a measure authorizing Charleston Police Chief Opie Smith to enter into an understanding with the U.S. Marshals Service to create a Violent Offender Task Force.
The memorandum of understanding gives U.S. Marshals more leeway to conduct investigations and arrest people who have active and state and federal warrants and who may be in Charleston, Steele said.
In other business, Charleston City Council approved a contract with Triton Construction for $2.43 million in repairs to the South Side Bridge.
Repairs on the bridge are expected to begin in November, said Chris Knox, city engineer.
The repairs will take about six total months, and for five weekends traffic on the bridge will be limited while crews jack up the bridge to complete structural steelwork. The rest of the work will entail replacing rubber seals and expansion joints, Knox said.
Knox did not have an exact date as to which weekends traffic on the bridge would be affected, but he said traffic would be closed from midnight each Friday until 6 a.m. each Monday during those weekends.
The state Division of Highways is contributing $1.8 million toward the bridge project.
Council also voted to accept $30,000 in loans from the West Virginia Housing Development Fund to develop a project to identify and map blighted properties throughout the city. The loans also will be used to develop a handful of pre-approved architectural designs for homes on smaller lots throughout the city with the goal of making a more efficient permitting process to build homes on those lots throughout the city.