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La Crosse adding new position for “nuisance” properties that get three strikes with city

Rick Solem

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The complaints keep pouring, and the city of La Crosse is having a hard time keeping up.

On the city’s website, there’s a page that allows people to complain about, essentially, their neighbors — or whomever they feel they want to complain about.

Last year, the city’s “code enforcement technicians” wrote 3,570 orders — mostly to do with “municipal code violations” — having to do with someone complaining to the city that a place’s grass is too long or sidewalk isn’t shoveled.

This year, through July 12, there have been 2,770 orders written.

Right now, the city has two of these technicians to go out and assess these complaints. Now, however, it’s been given permission to create a new position for properties — which can be either a resident or a business — that have three strikes against them, otherwise known as a “nuisance property.”

This new, grant-funded position, will be called the “chronic nuisance code enforcement technician.”

“The purpose of the nuisance program is, there are a certain number of properties throughout — and I imagine it would probably be in any given city — where we have more complaints driven from that single property, than maybe we do from the entire neighborhood or the block that it’s living on,” La Crosse Assistant Fire Chief Craig Snyder said.

So, while the two other technicians are out on call almost all the time, this new position will be working with these “nuisance property” owners on solving their issues — with the city.

“In the past we’ve had on our books, at any one time, several hundred of those properties throughout the city,” Snyder, who oversees these positions, said. “So there is some catch-up work to be done and that’s the reason why we’re bringing this position in.”

There are multiple ways the city can be notified of a potential problem with a property. Aside from simply calling city hall, a person can use the My La Crosse app or go onto the city’s website (here) and click “Submit a service request.”

These requests can be done anonymously, but Snyder would much rather those complaining leave a phone number or email.

He said there are, essentially, regulars, who drive around the city, sending in their complaints. Snyder mentioned he knows a certain individual will send him some photos Monday, like clockwork. But, since they can be done anonymously, Snyder cannot relay to these individuals whether or not their complaints are valid with the city.

“Frankly, a lot of anonymous complaints, are more so a pet peeve than a code related issue,” Snyder said. “It would be nice to respond in kind to those folks.”

Most of the time, however, this isn’t wasting a lot of the city’s time because they can simply see, by the information submitted, that no rules are being broken and nobody has to go out on a call.

As for the properties that fall under the new “nuisance” criteria, Snyder mentioned that the strikes against them doesn’t necessarily have to be through municipal code violations — like grass and weeds, or a stockpile of garbage at a property. They can also happen because of police activity, such as an animal violations, underage drinking or weapons offenses.

After three strikes, the new “nuisance technician” will work with the property owner on a plan to get up to code. They’ll be given 10 days to come up with that plan. After that, they may begin to accumulate fines, assessments and fees.

The new position will be on a one-year trial. The grant is for as much as $56,000, which will include equipment the position needs — such as a computer. Snyder said they may not spend that much, but $56,000 is the limit.

The grant money comes from the Community Development Block Grant program.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Rick Hamilton

    July 19, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    Currently the program is being administered by the lead inspector and this program is being used by the city as a program to bully and target landlords.

    For example if a tenant sets out a couch by the dumpster is becomes a chronic nuisance violation of illegal outside storage.

    The city stopped picking up large items a few years ago, thus making property owner part time garbage men

    I the cities 2 code violations happens to drive thru the alley first and sees the couch it becomes a violation and a correction order is created. If the city code person happens to drive by 5 minutes after the tenant set out the couch and I see it after 10 minutes, pick it up and run it to the landfill, pay the fees and dispose of the large item, I am still guilty because in this race the city code person beat me to it.

    3 strikes you are guilty, you get to come in and set in a room for your meeting and punishment. you sign a chronic nuisance contract and are now eligilble for future $691 tickets if their code person beats you to the next tire, dresser, mattress that is set out by a tenant. Even if I get to it the same day. It all depends upon who gets their first. The city does target landlords , so we are all at great risk of being fined and bullied in the future.

    This also includes if a tenant lets their licence plate on their car expire, again the 3rd party guilt landlord gets a violation that counts towards the 3 violations to be a nuisance landlord, even if I have it towed out….its to late, I apparently allowed a tenant to be late on renewing their plates.

    If someone other than a tenant is relaxing in a chair having a beer on my rental property they can be found guilty of loitering and bingo….a chronic nuisance against the owner.

    Even good landlords can not always catch the dirty rotten 3rd party people violators known as a legal tenant first when they create the ordinance violation
    especially if the city code person has your property on a daily or weekly route. They will catch me first not catching the renter violation first.

    Currently the city is abusing this chronic nuisance ordinance as a method to bully and target landlords. Now that they have added a 3rd person (chronic nuisance technician) in addition to the 2 code technicians I might have to get an attorney????

  2. Avatar

    Karen Wrolson

    July 19, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    This is wonderful! What a great program. Thank you for seeking grant funds to pay for this. Having one person to work directly with the property owners for 10 days makes sense. That technician will be able to help them problem solve as that technician will have handled similar cases.
    This will resolve problems in lieu of having on-going phone calls and technician visits.

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