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City of Lee's Summit Responds To Trash...
City of Lee's Summit Responds To Trash Complaint
January 8, 2011
Ordinance Protects Home Values
By Debbie Van Pelt
Fed up with trash left behind after a neighbor’s foreclosure and subsequent eviction, Mike Hull called City Council Member Joe Spallo on Christmas Eve for help. The city responded, and the trash was cleared within the week.
Photo Courtesy Mike Hull
Not everyone would think of calling their city council member with a complaint on Christmas Eve; but, fed up with trash that had been left in an evicted neighbor’s front yard for two weeks, Lee’s Summit resident Mike Hull did just that. Hull, who lives on the 5400 block of NE Sunshine Drive is represented by both Joe Spallo and Ed Cockrell; but Spallo is the council member Hull chose to call.
Hull, who lives in a neighborhood in the northeast section of the city with homes ranging in the $200,000-plus range, told the Tribune that Wells Fargo had owned the property since January, 2007. The debris had been placed on the front lawn approximately December 10, after residents were evicted. Hull said there was initially more trash than that seen in the photo he provided, but that people had been rummaging and taking items for two weeks. He claims he was told by an attorney speaking on behalf of Wells Fargo that they were not responsible for the mess. Feeling very frustrated, and not wanting to clean up the eyesore himself, Hull contacted the Tribune and Council Member Spallo, saying, “I believe Wells Fargo should be given a citation with daily fines until this mess is cleaned up.”
Unable to do anything on Christmas Eve, Spallo contacted the city’s Codes Administration Department the following business day, Monday, December 27. City Manager, Steve Arbo verified that the codes department took action the day they were contacted. Wells Fargo was given until January 4 to clean up the mess or face fines and penalties if the city had to take on the task. When that happens, the city files a lien on the property. Director of Codes Administration Mark Dunning said, “That can get expensive for the mortgage company. We hire a contractor to do the work. Then there are administrative fees and lien fees to add on.” Fortunately, the city did not have to clean up the Sunshine Drive property. Hull happily reported that it was taken care of on New Year’s Eve, as a result of the Codes Administration Department’s action.
Arbo said the city takes foreclosed and vacated properties very seriously. He proudly explained that Lee’s Summit was one of the first cities in the nation to adopt foreclosure ordinances, and that many other cities in the region have now followed suit. Dunning said. “The foreclosed residential property ordinance was adopted on July 10, 2008. Every foreclosed property is required to be registered with the Codes Administration Department. The city will then inspect the exterior of the property to make certain maintenance codes are being met, which will protect the value of other homes in the community.” Dunning said over the past year, the list has averaged 400 homes. He explained that the majority of the foreclosed homes are adequately maintained, but estimates that the city has dealt with approximately 20 homes in the past year with debris left in front yards. He said both numbers have increased over the past three years.
Both Arbo and Dunning stress that citizens should report abandoned or neglected property to the Codes Administration Department by calling 969-1200, rather than removing the debris from their neighbor’s yards. They explained that there are regulations in effect that provide a certain amount of time for evicted residents to retrieve their belongings. Someone seemingly doing a good deed by cleaning up after an eviction could actually be cited for trespassing or stealing; whereas the city will make sure proper procedures are followed. Still, Dunning said, “We can’t usually pick the trash up immediately, unless it’s hazardous. We will try to exhaust every means possible to get the responsible parties to do it themselves in a timely manner.”