- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

BAKER, La. (AP) - The Baker City Council has voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance streamlining the process of cleaning up blighted and unsafe property in the city.

The new law does not change the kinds of violations targeted, which include abandoned buildings, hazardous structures, fire hazards, unsafe equipment and code violations.

Under the new ordinance approved Tuesday, offending property owners will still receive notice before the city acts and could be fined up to $500 for violations. However, The Louisiana Municipal Association will handle some of the legal procedures as well as collections on the fines.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1KAsPId) the city will appoint a hearing officer to levy fines as well as consider appeals by property owners.

Under the previous law, Baker city workers could cut tall grass on a property, remove junk cars or tear down hazardous buildings after following a procedure for contacting the owner. However, the city could only recover its costs by placing a lien on the property or adding the amount owed to the person’s property tax bill.

The new law is just one step toward improving the way blighted property is handled in the city.

“Within 60 to 90 days there will be another ordinance proposed with more detail about what (the Louisiana Municipal Association) will be allowed to do,” City Attorney Ken Fabre said.

Baker is one of the first cities in the state to overhaul their blighted property laws in this way and will set an example that other municipalities are likely to follow, he said.

While working on this ordinance, the council and Fabre were careful to protect property owners’ rights, council member Pete Heine said.

Heine gave the shuttered and soon-to-be demolished Pizza Hut building on La. 19 as an example of a blighted property.

“It makes the city look better (to clean up these properties),” he said.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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