The Starke County Commissioners adopted amendments to the county’s unsafe building ordinance last night amid enthusiastic support from members of the public. Koontz Lake residents in particular attended the meeting and expressed frustration with the prevalence of visible junk vehicles, trash and other debris they say are driving down property values and affecting quality of life. Concerns were also raised about trash that’s not properly disposed of attracting rodents and potentially spreading diseases.
The amended ordinance requires vehicles incapable of being driven or without a current registration attached to be stored in a location that is not publicly visible, such as a garage or barn. It states “vehicles covered by a tarp or other plastic, vinyl, rubber, cloth or textile covering are considered to be visible.” Vehicles undergoing temporary service or repair are exempt from the provision. Also vehicles owned by military members on active duty assignment may be stored without a current license plate provided it is not visible from public property.
The ordinance also defines junk or debris not including inoperable vehicles and requires them to be stored in a completely enclosed structure at the rear of a dwelling. Also lumber or other building materials, construction vehicles or construction equipment not in connection with a permitted building project in progress on the property cannot be stored where they are visible from public property.
Fines of $350 for a first and $700 for a second offense after a 10 day period, plus cleanup costs, will be levied, according to the ordinance. A third offense will be referred to the Starke County Planning Commission for a public hearing. The owner will also be responsible for a civil penalty of up to $2,500 per day plus any administrative fees incurred related to advertising and conducting the public hearing.
Chronic nuisance properties are defined in the ordinance as those upon which two or more nuisance activities or conditions as defined in the ordinance have occurred during any three year period. They may have such recorded on the chain of title in the Starke County Recorder’s Office. That designation will remain in effect until the county’s enforcement officer certifies it has been nuisance-free for 24 consecutive months.
The ordinance is effective immediately. A copy is posted below. The underlined sections represent the new language.