The Ottumwa Courier


April 10, 2013

Negating nuisances


"This is primarily how we handle the majority of our complaints now. It's not that staff are driving by and noticing something. Most are resident-generated complaints to the department. Then if we get in the neighborhood and see a lot of other problems, then staff will take down addresses."

Nuisances have changed over the years, she said.

"I don't remember having the issue of refrigerated trucks parked in front of houses running all night," Gates said. "And I don't remember there being a lot of electric fences being used in town. I don't remember the tarp stuff, either. It's almost like hoarding. They've got so much stuff that it pushes its way out of the house onto the front porch or in the yard. I've never seen anything quite as amazing as that, where it's just piled up, and that's how people handle it."

The council wasn't opposed to the ordinance change, but they did ask for clarification on a number of items, including allowing parking in yards for special events, flexibility on allowing bathtubs as planters in front yards and setting limitations on banning the use of electric fences. Morgan had concerns that the ordinance could intrude on a person's right to use their private property as they please.

"They want to balance individual needs and rights with the codes we're going to be adopting," Gates said. "I understand that, but I also know what our people see out there in the field."

Through tweaking the ordinance, Gates hopes to clarify exactly what is and is not prohibited.

"I was hoping we would get real specific and detailed for residents' sake as well as our inspector, so people can see in black and white — that's prohibited, you're not supposed to do that. And if it's not in that list, then it's likely not prohibited," Gates said.

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