The City of Vader has appointed three individuals to a committee responsible for enforcing nuisance/abandoned property ordinances after officials spent months fine-tuning policy.
Residents Judi Costello, Betty Ann Vassey and Kathy Wagner were appointed by the Vader City Council to the committee July 16 and are tasked with documenting nuisance violations and informing property owners of the steps needed to bring them into compliance.
The committee was first defined in an ordinance passed last October, which also created a somewhat elaborate and fee-heavy process by which findings of violations would be appealed through a hearings examiner and then the City Council with court costs and fines reaching as much as $1,000 for a single violation.
A new ordinance passed June 18 simplified this process to include Vader’s Municipal Court (contracted through Winlock Municipal Court) as the first level of appeal, and Lewis County Superior Court as the second level of appeal, eliminating the need to create new entities and/or protocols.
Also, the fee to apply for the first level of appeal is now a flat $100, and all appeals to higher courts will be determined by the respective court’s fee schedule and shall be borne by the appealing party.
The Improvement Committee was also further defined in the new ordinance to allow for three-year appointments on a rotating basis (if all three committee members were to serve full terms, a seat on the committee would be open once every year). Appointees must be current residents of Vader, must have lived in the city for at least 12 months, must be registered to vote and otherwise eligible to hold public office.
If a property owner in Vader is called upon by the Improvements Committee for a violation, it will have been in response to claims of hazardous circumstances such as a buildup of refuse or other dangerous debris, as well as unfit dwellings and dilapidated structures which pose harm to the public at large.
It will be the responsibility of Improvement Committee members, according to ordinance, to communicate with property owners who are the subject of violations and ensure they are aware of how violations can be corrected.
If a property owner receives a notice of civil violation, either in person or by mail, they will have up to 10 days to correct the violation and/or up to seven days to file for an appeal. If a violation remains uncorrected, either after the allotted time has passed or after a finding in favor of the city after appeal, the city will retain the option to hire city employees or contractors to correct the violation and will charge appropriate expenses to the property owner.
In circumstances where violations are determined to be severe and in need of immediate action, or where the property owner has been unresponsive to communications or unwilling to comply, the city will reserve the right to abate the property in question.
But community groups in and around Vader have proven very willing to help avoid such extremes, such as in the case of Doug Weimer’s property last year where a shed had partially collapsed into a public right-of-way and he did not have the means to correct it.
Volunteers with the Vader Assembly of God and the Winlock Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints gathered to remove the shed from the right-of-way Oct. 6 while preventing it from falling onto neighboring buildings—all free of charge. Both entities have stated their willingness to assist in such capacities in the future and concerned residents have been able to reach them through City Hall.
For more information about nuisance violations, the Vader Improvement Committee, or how to correct a violation on your property, contact Vader City Hall at (360) 295-3222.