Property owners in Conyers now have an added incentive to clean up their lots. The city recently changed its ordinances to allow the city to come onto private property to clean up and charge the owners or occupants for the cost of the service.
According to the ordinance, property owners or occupants who, among other requirements, let their grass or weeds grow above12 inches, don't remove dead trees, shrubs, and other plant materials that are decomposing or blocking the sight of drivers on public or private streets and driveways, and don't remove debris and litter within five days of being notified of a violation could be brought into municipal court and charged up to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
Public Works Department Director Marvin Flanigan pointed out the ordinance regulating litter, weed, and vegetation control was already on the books. "The part that was changed was that the city could go in and cut it and assess a fee on the property, assess a lien," he said.
Flanigan said the city has not had to issue citations to any elderly residents, and citations are not issued for compost piles. The ordinance was designed to address the problem of rental properties and absentee landlords, said Flanigan. The ordinance had been changed in the past from 6 inches to 12 inches allowed and 48-compliance time.
Public officers will now also hand-deliver a notice to property owners and occupants in addition to sending a notice by certified mail.
Conyers Police are also cracking down on loitering and prowling, particularly in parking lots, with new ordinances passed at Wednesday's city council meeting.
Some of the behaviors described as loitering and prowling includes attempting to enter a vehicle not belonging to the person, looking into the vehicle, pulling on the door handle, tampering with the vehicle, attempting to open the trunk, lying under the vehicle, and "otherwise acting in a manner not unusual for law abiding individuals."
Conyers Police Department spokesperson Capt. Scott Freeman pointed out the ordinance also requires police to give the loiterer a chance to "dispel alarm" or explain their behavior. For instance, teenagers hanging out in the parking lot will have a chance to explain themselves, he said.
"We identified this as a number of months ago as a tool that would help protect people's property," particularly in the Wal-Mart parking lot, said Freeman. He add that the state had a similar law.
Under the old ordinance, even though there might be suspicious behavior, unless an officer actually sees the suspect commit the crime of entering an auto, "you don't have anything to stop it," said Freeman. This ordinance would give police a less severe tool than enforcing a state ordinance.
Penalties can go up to $1000 and six months in jail.
In other city council business:
The Urban Redevelopment Authority exercised its power of eminent domain to reclaim two pieces of property - both at the request of surrounding residents and relatives. Ownership of the properties had become unclear over the years. One piece was left over and forgotten after a larger parcel was split up, and the city was unable to trace the owners of the property at 922 Bryant Street. Veronica Flanigan spoke in support of the city claiming 922 Bryant Street.
"We've tried on several occasions to reach all the family members. The house is not livable, and we want the city to exercise the power of eminent domain," she said.