Questions and Answers:
Q1. Is parking in an alley, so as to block traffic permitted for any period of time? Are folks allowed to leave vehicles unattended in the alleys, blocking traffic, for even a few minutes? How should a homeowner address a problem like this, (that occurs repeatedly)?
A1. Alleys are public right of ways and are not allowed to be blocked for any period of time. Having said this, we all live in close proximity with our neighbors and accordingly sacrifice some privacy and some conveniences that suburbanites have. If someone blocks an alley to unload groceries or children out of a necessity it is still unlawful but also is a potential inconvenience to neighbors that calls for some balance of tolerance by others and not abused by the perpetrator. If the blockage is abusive I first suggest a sociable contact with the abuser and if satisfaction is not achieved to contact the police through County Dispatch to state that a street/alley is blocked by an abandoned auto.
Q2. Are inoperable (abandoned) cars with flat tires etc. (not driven for months/years, no current registration) permitted to be left in private parking pads along the alleys? Is this a code violation?
A2. The City’s property maintenance code prohibits the storage of inoperative or unlicensed motor vehicles as well as vehicles in the state of major disassembly. There are some limited exceptions to these provisions e.g. an automobile under active restoration.
Q3. Is there a table of organization to be followed for complaints that are not resolved at the first level of reporting? What is the table of organization which should be followed for complaints involving quality of life issues? Code issues? Police issues?
A3. Should a citizen feel as though they are not receiving the level of service that they want, a call should be then made to the Code Enforcement Supervisor or Police Chief as the situation dictates. Both individuals routinely give their cell phone numbers to citizens. Respectively they are 912-2545 and 468-2223.
Q4. How is a written record against rental properties (in the new landlord ordinance) established? Does the city regularly look at the total number of calls made to police dispatch regarding incidents at a particular property, or are only the calls that result in a police report considered when a written record is generated on a particular property?
A4. A written record is established though Police reports, Fire/EMS run reports, Code Enforcement citations/reports and the County Dispatch log sheets. To monitor activities Code Enforcement and the Police Department have an internal referral system. In addition to the referral system, Police officers routinely call for Code Enforcement in situations regarding what they perceive as a problem property. Calls to dispatch and code enforcement are factored in to the decision to take action against a rental property. Calls to the Police Department do not have to result in a report being generated to count, but overall they should be sufficient enough to make a case against the property owner in court.
Q5. What is the best way to make the landlord ordinance work for the homeowners who are repeatedly confronted by quality of life issues that arise from renters in notoriously problematic properties? (Please don't just say "call dispatch" if there is no city monitoring of the number of dispatch calls made on a particular property....many residents call and call but nothing seems to change….please suggest something that could eventually generate results).
A5. On the City’s web site there is a link under Government/Code Enforcement to send complaint emails directly to the Code Enforcement Director at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, the best way to achieve results with the ordinance is by communication with the City. The calls to dispatch are very important in order to build a case for action against a property owner’s rental license. As stated earlier, they do not have to generate a police run to be held against the property owner. The dispatch log is perfect record of dates and times as well as the nature of the calls. Moreover, communication with Code Enforcement and the Police Department is critical to achieve results. Contact can also be made directly to the City Manager or any Board of Commissioners member. Their numbers are listed.
Q6. If residents are not satisfied with the current landlord ordinance, can the structuring of that ordinance be revisited and revised?
A6. Every ordinance is capable of being reviewed and revisited. During the first year after adoption City staff does this internally on new programs such as the landlord ordinance to iron out any “bugs” of implementation.
Q7. Has anyone from the city considered that it may be a conflict of interest to allow city officials who own rental properties to be involved in the formulation of a landlord ordinance for the city?
A7. No City officials who own rental property were involved in its formulation. Code Enforcement, Occupational Licensing and Legal formulated the ordinance and the Commissioners only set the annual fee. Such a setting of fees is not a conflict e.g. property tax rate.
Q8. If a resident suspects drug activity may be occurring at a particular property, what is the best way to notify the city? Does the city then monitor properties when these concerns are voiced?
A8. With few exceptions a police officer attends every neighborhood meeting and reports back to the appropriate City department about concerns. Additionally, the Police Chief is always available to receive questions. A property may be monitored by the City or the Regional Drug Task Force. The fact that arrests are not being immediately made or the house shut down is not a sign that nothing is being done. In following proper law enforcement procedure on these types of cases some investigations go on for months before noticeable action is taken.
Q9. Can video or audio recordings made by citizens be used to enforce the law since the police cannot act on violations unless they themselves witness the infraction.
A9. The law does not permit a police officer to use these to issue a misdemeanor citation or make such an arrest. These can be used as evidence when a citizen has signed a private complaint.
Q10. I've noticed officers on foot and motorized segways (sic) recently, especially along Park. Is this citywide? This is terrific! Is this something temporary or will it continue? What can residents do to support the police in this effort?
A10. This activity is City-wide as are the bike patrols and they will continue. Reporting things to the City certainly helps and an occasional thank you to the officers is greatly appreciated. It certainly makes them feel as if they are having an impact.
Q11. Does the city have any input on the establishment of property values?
A11. No. This is entirely within the powers of the elected County Property Valuation Administrator.
Q12. Does the city have any input in the process when residents contest property valuations?
A12. No. First, these are private matters and the City’s intervention in one case likely affects other citizens. Second, there are other taxing agencies such as the Schools, the Library, the County, the State, etc. who are affected by the result so each entity remains neutral.
Q13. How are property values determined? Why is there such a discrepancy in property values of comparable homes in the East Row, (similar square footage and located on the same street)?
A13. The County PVA and his staff attend training and use valuation models to set valuations with adjustments then made for location, condition and recent sales.
Q14. Does the city think quality of life issues affect property values? Does the city recognize that properties located near or on blocks with a high density of slum rental properties are probably devalued as a result of their proximity to slum rentals?
A14. In most cases the answer is yes property values can be affected. The City of Newport has long recognized this and that is why the City has done rental unit inspection for 20 years unlike Covington which is now doing it for 20 days. It is why the City adopted its Code Enforcement Division and Code Enforcement Board. It is why the City adopted a program that taxes these properties at 7 times the standard rate.
Q15. The city of Covington is considering the introduction of inspections of the interiors of rental units. Could Newport do the same?
A15. As mentioned previously Newport has been doing it for 20 years. In fact Covington sought Newport’s assistance in developing their program.
Q16. How do residents establish "crime watch" or "block watch" groups? Does the city support the organization of such groups? What are the recommended parameters, how do such groups secure signs etc.?
A16. A request is made to the Police Chief who then assigns an officer to assist in the formation of the watch and training of the people involved. I know it sound old hat but the City has been doing this for years.
Q17. Would it be possible to start an "adopt a block" campaign with the city's support? Not financial support, but an advocacy effort. Residents on a particular block could work together to collect litter on their block, advocate tidying up alley's, work on beautification…any of a number of things.
A17. Yes. Many residents do this now on their own during their evening walks. I also believe it is a function of the neighborhood associations which associations the City has promoted and supported for decades.
Q18. Are there noise ordinances regarding loud radios, honking horns etc.? What about noise ordinances for contractors, start times, end times? Weekends?
A18. The City has experimented over the years with different types of ordinances including decimal based and the use of sound meters. The police say the State statute on Disorderly Conduct seems to work the best. The City does have ordinances that restrict the hours for contractors to work.
Q19. What is the city's policy regarding fireworks? How does the city enforce the law regarding the use of illegal fireworks? What plans does the city have to attempt to reduce the very high number of illegal firework violations that occur on and around the 4th of July? Could the police exert more of a presence in the neighborhood on and around the 4th to reduce the use of illegal fireworks? What about hefty fines for violations?
A19. This is a problem without an acceptable answer to anyone, including the City. Fireworks are regulated by State and Federal law and as such are beyond local legislation. Most of the fireworks you see/hear are illegal under both sets of laws. Although efforts are made every year to address the most egregious situations new ones always spring up. The reality is that every officer on duty that day could spend their entire shift handling fireworks calls and still only be able to address a few while ignoring all of their other calls for service and patrols.
Q20. Has the city considered some new themes for festivals on the riverfront, like a bluegrass music event, to replace some of the old standbys, that are do not seem to be attracting much attendance, like the Italian festival?
A20. The City is changing its festival program. Just this year a car show and a Jazzfest was held on Monmouth Street. Next year it appears that the Arts & Music Festival will be combined with the Jazzfest and more emphasis placed upon both real art and upon music. Maybe Bluegrass could be added into the mix as well. A few years ago the City added a motorcycle event. The Italian Festival is one of the most popular City events and is not likely to disappear.
Q21. Does the city have any kind of a program in place to encourage owners of vacant properties (vacant for YEARS) to sell the properties?
A21. Yes. The City has adopted a program that taxes these properties at 7 times the standard rate. Also, the City regularly cites these properties for violations which result in thousands of dollars of penalties to the owners. If these are left unpaid the City institutes foreclosure in many cases.
Q22. Does the city have any kind of a program in place to encourage people to buy and rehab properties for their own use? Suggestion: Sell problem (abandoned or condemned) properties cheap, with the caveot that the buyer rehab them to specific building codes, live in them for 5 years, and maybe offer a 5 year tax reduction/abatement?
A22. The City uses tax moratoriums to assist in these ventures and has worked with people and organizations to acquire and rehab these type of properties during most of my 19 years with the City.
Q23. Does the city have any concerns regarding the effect of transient residency, (like that of renters who don't have leases and may only live in Newport for a short period of time), on the academic performance and rating of our schools? If so, what has the city done to address those concerns? What could the city do in the future?
A23. The City has continually developed and supported programs for home ownership because it sees the problems with many rental properties. I cannot address the academic aspect. This needs to be answered by someone with the Newport Independent School System.
Q24. What suggestions does the city have for residents as to how they can support the city government in efforts to improve the quality of life, schools and safety issues for all residents of Newport? What initiatives could the residents take on that they may not have thought of for themselves?
A24. City staff is readily accessible in person, by email and via the website. Suggestions and assistance are always welcome. My position, not the City’s, is that our society, not just in Newport, looks too much to have government solve our problems. Whether it involves sweeping the street, sidewalk or alley by your house or something similar, I remember when we did that ourselves.
Q25. Are there any rules/laws that landlords are responsible for the behavior of their tenants? It does not appear that the landlord(s) in the neighborhood screen their tenants before allowing them to move in. It would be most helpful if tenants had to abide by basic common sense decency rules or be evicted (swearing, drinking on the stoop until the wee hours, throwing things at each other, etc.) Debris, clutter and other unsightly messes visible from the street detract from the neighborhood.
A25. As stated previously the Regulatory rental license is designed to deal with these types if issues and gives the City the ability to administer penalties for violations. The City cannot directly legislate common sense business rules or common decency. It can only punish the violations.
Q26. Are there any laws/ordinances that can be enforced to 'encourage' homeowners (or landlords) to straighten up and be good neighbors???? As an example, there is a house on the corner of 8th and Maple that has so much junk stacked on the porch (including bags of garbage/cans?), that they can't even enter the house via that door. It looks bad and its embarrassing for the whole neighborhood. Of course the yapping pit bulls penned in the side yard (aka concrete slab) don't help with neighborhood appeal either.
A26. There are a number of ways that the City addresses these types of issues, including the issuance of fines and actually cleaning the property and then billing the owner.
Q27. Most of the concerns stated here are related to 'bad neighbor' behavior. Not to point fingers, but I'd say that 90% of the issues are related to renters. If we could find ways to educate / mandate renters/landlords agree to 'standards of normal behavior' (swearing, noise, curfews, trespassing, curb appeal, etc.) BEFORE they move in, most of these problems would diminish. As a landlord for 10 years (in Clifton), I have always had my tenants agree to and sign a code of conduct before they sign the lease and I've never had one complaint from the neighbors.
A27. A good property owner would require their tenants to sign leases with conditions that prohibit bad conduct or criminal behavior. The landlords / owners that we are talking about here would not necessarily be classified as “good”. The recent adoption of the Rental License ordinance gives the City the ability to address these concerns. With it being only a few months old, I would encourage patience while it is being implemented. I would also encourage direct communication with Code Enforcement and the Police Department with these issues.
Q28. What ever happened to the sidewalk repair program? A few years ago, when Phil Ciafiardini was City Manager, the city embarked on a program that required homeowners replace cracked or broken sidewalks at the homeowner's expense. As I remember, the city worked with a concrete contractor and supposedly gave us a 'good deal' on the replacement cost. They started along 7th street and a couple other east-west streets to my recollection. We were one of the first who had to replace sidewalk bordering our property. There are still LOADS of VERY bad sidewalks around - some that are quite dangerous to walk on. What is the city doing to address these dangerous and unsightly sidewalks and when might this program be reinstituted?
A28. That part of the sidewalk program that allowed property owners to take advantage of the City’s price and re-pay the City with low interest over time has expired. There was no “supposed” about the pricing and homeowners were allowed to use the City pricing, their own pricing or do it themselves, whichever was more cost effective and convenient. Homeowners are still responsible for maintenance of the sidewalks adjacent to their property.
Q29. What is the process that a person needs to follow in order to get a tree planted in the street tree lawn at their home? Will the city remove the concrete for the person if they currently need it removed in order to plant the tree lawn? Who is the contact? Does the city work with a nursery to purchase street-appropriate trees? I know a list exists somewhere of that type of tree, but I don't know where. My understanding is that the city will plant a tree for a homeowner if the homeowner purchases the tree(s), either from the city or their own source. The ERHF would like to participate in a way to subsidize or purchase trees for people in the East Row who would like one on their property.
A29. Should a resident want to do this they should contact Doug Roell at 859-912-2541 and the work will be scheduled. The City assists residents in the removal of the concrete along the curb line for property owners who desire a tree to be planted in front of their property. Some trees are purchased by the City by seeking bids from several nurseries and purchasing the trees from the lowest bidder that provides the best product. A list of street appropriate trees are available through the Community Development Department. In addition the City recommends utilizing the services of Dave Koester, Campbell County Extension Service when choosing a tree. Dave is a certified arborist and his services are free. Dave can be reached at 859-572-2600.
Q30. Has the city's financial difficulties affected law enforcement/safety issues. Are city police and firefighters fully staffed?
A30. The safety of citizens has not been placed in jeopardy. Regarding the Police, on short notice the City just lost 4 police officers in May due to retirement. Two lateral transfers from other departments were hired within weeks and the hiring process for two more new officers also began within weeks. The major drop in crime in Newport in 2007 and to date in 2008 supports the position that public safety has not been impacted. By the way, crimes are reported through the County dispatch not the City. Regarding Fire/EMS, the City's contract with the fire union calls for no more than and no less than 36 firefighters. The City has 36 firefighters, fully functional equipment and has just recently spent about $80,000.00 to buy 36 sets of turn-out gear for them.
Q31. I would like to ask the following: I love the East Row Historic District and have lived here for several years, fixing up my property with plans to stay for a long time. However, I have had a problem recently that has made me consider moving back to Ohio... that is the RENTAL PROPERTY around me. I have had problem renters all summer long who "hang out" at all hours. Mostly it's loud conversations on sidewalks and front porches after 11 pm which sometimes escalates into shouting and arguments. If it's a really loud outburst, often it doesn't last long enough to call the police but unfortunately wakes me up in the middle of the night, but when it does (such as a party or an actual fight), I have called the police. But long term nothing changes and the next night the same thing can happen. I have heard of a Landlord Ordinance but can't find out much about it. What is the phone number of code enforcement? The City of Newport lists something in their "HOT TOPICS" that is in legal lingo...hard to understand. I am desperate and plan to move back to Ohio next spring unless I can get this problem to end. As I mentioned, I love Newport and don't want to move. I am speaking with realtors about selling.
A31. The Landlord/Rental License Ordinance is the one listed in "Hot Topics". It was placed there because of the interest in it. (It can also be found at two other places on the City's website i.e. "Ordinances" and "City Code".) It has some "legal lingo" but I think only at a minimum and as necessary as a "law". Code Enforcement's number is 292-3637 but they are not available 24/7. Even if it's not a police request call, residents should call dispatch with these types of noise complaints as it generates a log of calls, dates and times so that the City Manager may implement the provisions of the Landlord/Rental License Ordinance.