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Bad Neighbors

May 21, 2014, 10:01 PM by Don Jorgensen

Bad Neighbors

From tall weeds and abandoned vehicles to piled-up garbage, there are some unsightly areas around Sioux Falls.  The City says it's taking a strong stance against homeowners who don't comply with City codes.

A house on South Summit Avenue has been an eyesore for a long time according to Kathy Maves, who lives right next door.

"It just makes the whole neighborhood look bad.  It makes us look bad, you know, like we don't care," Maves said.

Maves and others in the neighborhood have long complained to the City and police about the property, which was left vacant.

"They were having parties and transient people and homeless people living in the front porch. They were using the lawn and our lawn for a restroom and it just got out of hand.  A lot of drinking; a lot of fighting," Maves said.

The City is well aware of this property and many others.  Each year, it issues hundreds of citations to property owners who don't comply with City code.

"Typically the first thing we do is try to figure out what department, which code enforcement team member, had to go out and look at it," Kevin Smith with Sioux Falls Planning and Building Services said.

From overgrown lawns and weeds to abandoned vehicles, the City aggressively goes after violators.

"We take it very seriously because we understand that it only takes one bad neighbor to really negatively impact an entire neighborhood," Smith said.

KELOLAND News searched City records to see how many complaints were filed last year and what was done about them.  There were nearly 5,000 complaints on file with vegetation and health hazards making up the bulk of them.

The City first sends a letter of notification to the homeowner that the property needs to be cleaned up.  Smith says 85 percent of those complaints are voluntarily taken care of by the property owner immediately.

"It's that other 15 percent that are the extreme non-compliant that ultimately land in the city attorney's office," Smith said.

If someone fails to do something about the problem within a few days, the City will issue a fine of $100.  If the property owners continue to ignore the problem, the City will fine them another $200.  A third violation can result in a $300 fine for a total of $600 in fines all together.

If the property owners still refuse to do anything about the problem, they will be taken to court, but most don't make it that far. 

City records show of the 4,950 complaints last year, all but 794 were taken care of by the homeowners themselves.

But it's properties like the one on South Summit Avenue that can take time to clean up, which sometimes invites more problems.

"Because what we've also found, Don, is that on vacant properties, foreclosed properties where there's no one around, sometimes it becomes a convenient dumping site," Smith said.

No one wants that, especially the neighbors.

"Sometimes it's just finding a responsible party, because believe it or not, some people just leave these structures.  We have little information so we have to do title searches," Smith said.

Then the City has to work the legal process to eventually have the place demolished.  In the meantime, the City has boarded up the place to keep vagrants out.

Neighbors tell us it's much quieter now, but they're still waiting for the property to be torn down and cleaned up.

"We really do rely on neighboring property owners to be part of the code enforcement team because Sioux Falls is over 70 square miles and no one knows better what's going on in the property next door to them then a property owner," Smith said.

Smith says the city is going before a judge this Friday to get the legal work done on that home on South Summit Avenue to have the home demolished.

If you'd like to learn more about code enforcement and the laws and how to file a complaint, click here.

You can review code complaints using an interactive website

City of Sioux Falls CE totals 2011-2013.pdf
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