By Bill Short
The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen has unanimously passed an ordinance on first reading that would amend the Municipal Code regarding property maintenance regulations.
Board members took the action during their Aug. 14 regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Mike Caruthers and seconded by Alderman Thomas McGhee.
The proposed ordinance is scheduled for a public hearing and final reading at the board’s Sept. 11 meeting.
It states that the City Charter authorizes the board to regulate and inspect all buildings, lands and places regarding their condition for “health, cleanliness and safety,” prevent their use when necessary and require any changes needed to make them healthful, clean and safe.
The proposed ordinance would repeal the Code’s Title 13 in its entirety and replace it with the wording in an attached exhibit.
While noting that the board had a Work Session several weeks ago on the ordinance, City Attorney Gerald Lawson said the staff has been trying to “get a few things easier to cite people on” for cleanup of exterior property, junk vehicles and rubbish.
He said Shelby County now does enforcement for “basically all the different codes.” So, some language was added to the ordinance stating that any codes conflicting with those adopted by the county would be withdrawn.
Lawson said the residential animal registration was deleted from Chapter 8 of Title 13, and a few changes were made regarding the procedures for filing liens after a 10-day notice.
“We discussed changing that to less than 10 days,” he noted. “But after reviewing the state law, we had to leave that at 10 days for grass-cutting regulations.”
Although Millington has an “annual notice of violation,” Lawson said the ordinance would change that to “the growing season.”
“The city of Memphis has some similar language,” he said, “where it gives one notice per provision to a property owner. We kind of modified what language we had to what Memphis uses in its regulations on that.”
During discussion shortly before the vote, Caruthers said he owns rental properties in Millington. And he would like to be informed if one of them has a code violation.
“If they hang it on the door,” he noted, “I don’t necessarily know about it.”
Caruthers asked whether the ordinance could state that the property owner as well as the tenant will be notified of a violation.
City Clerk Karen Findley said that, with the “new program,” one notice will be attached to the door and another will be mailed to the property owner.
Alderman Don Lowry said he would like the ordinance to allow voluntary registration of property without fines or fees.
“I know that, without having any teeth, you can’t make anybody do anything,” he acknowledged. “But I think a lot of people who own property in Millington would register anyway.”
Lawson said the issue in the Code regarding landlord registration was that there was no authority under the City Charter or state law to require anyone to register or pay fines or fees.
Caruthers said he would have “no problem” with voluntary registration. McGhee said he believes that would help “keep it current” if the city made that an “option.”
“As long as there’s no fee for it,” Caruthers added. “I can’t see that you have to pay to register.”
Lawson expressed uncertainty that voluntary registration must be included in the ordinance. He said it could just be a city policy.
Alderman Al Bell said that, if a violation continues “to a certain point,” the property owner will be notified anyway. He described himself as “real strong” on registering and even inspecting the property.
“But the way this Code is written now, it’s pretty much covered,” he noted. “Anything that you’re in violation of, we’ve got the authority to address it to the owner and the occupant.”
Lawson said there could be an issue with the owner’s address, if the property records are not updated.
“I see that the Assessor and Register sites are pretty well updated as things come along,” he acknowledged. “But sometimes, you’re dealing with out-of-town corporations or property owners.”
Findley said the trustee of the property will generally have a more up-to-date address, because he receives the tax bill each year. But if the city had a telephone number or e-mail address for him, he could be contacted “right off the bat.”
Alderman Bethany Huffman said that, if the board adopted a voluntary registration “outside the ordinance” as just a resolution or policy, the city could obtain more current information. And that might help it “get things cleaned up sooner.”
By Bill Short