By Alton Mitchell
On Monday night the LaFayette City Council called a special public hearing before its biweekly Mayor-City Council meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to try to cut down on a growing problem in LaFayette. That problem has dealt with unkeep and over grown properties that have become a public nuisance and as demonstrated Monday a public danger as well.
Members of the city council have addressed the problem in previous meetings first asking what steps could be taken to deal with overgrown and under attended properties in LaFayette. Then at the previous city council meeting on May 23rd, addressing two properties that had caused great concern.
On Monday night five properties were addressed of concern they included properties located on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in the 500 block, 2nd Avenue SW in the 500 block, Alabama Avenue East in the 200 block, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, and a property located in the 600 block of 3rd Street S.E.
Evidence and information was disclosed during the hearing that included testimony from LaFayette police Chief Ben Hill. During his testimony before council Chief Hill outlined some of the infractions that had occurred in violation to a city ordinance pertaining to maintaining and keeping and orderly yard.
Many of the infractions Chief Hill discussed dealt with overgrown grass and weeds becoming a hazard and eye sore. On one property Chief Hill discussed how he had responded to a complaint from neighboring residents after they had killed two large snakes that emerged from the property one was identified as a large rattlesnake about 5+ feet in length and the other was identified as a chicken snake by Chief Hill.
As outlined in city guidelines the owners of the property were issued a certified notification by Chief Hill. They were allowed time to respond. Out of the five properties in question four owners responded. The fifth was given a posted notification on the property after the certified notification failed to give proper notification.
As evidence was gathered it was discovered that one of the properties in question had a similar situation last year and the city of LaFayette ended up cutting the property for that owner. Councilmember Tammie Williams was outraged when discovering that public resources had been used on private property free of charge and that the same situation was occurring again this year. Councilwoman Williams began to question if that property owner should have been billed by the city for the services performed.
During the hearing other info was obtained that showed some of the property owners that had responded had taken proactive steps to get in compliance with the requests. These include one property where the front area of the property had been cut, but the rear still remained outside of standards. Another property had the yard cut, but still had bushes and shrubbery growing onto the property in a non-complaint standard.
In the end a resolution was obtained that declared the properties as public nuisances. None of the property owners of the in question properties were in attendance at the meeting. The city will now continue the process of attempting to get the property owners to clean up their properties. If that fails with the resolutions that were adopted Monday night city officials can take additional step to get the grounds compliant. No official word on which steps were addressed, but ideas were tossed around that included the city possibly cutting the grounds again, but this time billing the property owners for those services.