Last chance for unkept properties in Walnut Ridge

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WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. – The City of Walnut Ridge could be giving another chance to dilapidated property owners up for condemnation at Monday, June 20th’s city council meeting.

However, this chance would be the last without any further involvement from the city council.

The measure Mayor Charles Snapp sent out Sunday to media contacts came as he and City Attorney Nancy Hall attended the Municipal League Conference during the past week. The City of North Little Rock’s legal department shared the documents, called the “Agreement to Rehabilitate,” which, for property owners facing condemnation, would give one final chance to bring a run-down property up to code and obtain a “Certificate of Occupancy.”

“Two of the three property representatives/owners, on this month’s agenda, have had earlier problems/issue with city officials about property and condemnation in the Walnut Ridge area,” Snapp wrote. “I believe the Agreement to Rehabilitate puts the issue of rehabilitation in simple terms for the property owners, with a set timeline… ‘Put your money where your mouth is,’ and prove your intent.”

Hard dates for deadlines would be included in the measure if the city council approves it Monday.

It is being presented for three properties: The Krepps Building at the corner Custom and Miller Roads, owned by Aerotech Machine Company; A building at 121 SE Front Street, owned by the Jansen Family Living Trust; And a building at 3566 U.S. 67 North, owned by Wanda and Louise Sifford, but maintained by former Mayor JR Rogers.

Hall outlined the procedure under the agreement, should the council opt to go with the agreement to rehabilitate. In the email, Hall said those responsible for the property must sign the rehab agreement or, once condemned by vote of the council, the building will be razed after a 30 day wait. Those responsible would have to pay for the building’s destruction, too.

However, one worry Mayor Snapp has mentioned in the past is when someone begins work on a property and then stops, mid-job. Should the rehab agreement be signed and this take place, Hall wrote that any lapse in work would “not require any vote of the council.”

The city could just go “knock it down.”

“If repaired, we still get to take out fees, fines, attorney fees, mailing fees for certified mail, etc. that were charged up trying to get them to do what is right,” Hall wrote. “Then we give back the balance with a full accounting of what we charged.”

Hall recommended $1,500 for attorney fees if the building is condemned, because of what she described as a long, drawn out process involved in addressing unkept property. This would be placed in a lien on the property until paid.

However, should the property’s caretaker fix it back into proper shape, Hall said the city could prepare and pass a resolution to “un-condemn” the building.

In a reply late Sunday, Alderman Jeff Taylor voiced his disapproval for the idea.

“There are provisions in the existing code that holds no fault at least in JR’s building,” Taylor wrote. “It was not even in the city limits until recently. We have condemned properties in past and present administrations already that are still standing. Let’s take care of these first, before continuing down this slippery slope. The last thing the city needs is another lawsuit for condemnation problems. And I would also warn against using a big city policy in a rural farming community.”

The city council will decide on approval of the measure at the June 20 meeting.

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