Residents wait to see effect of nuisance laws

Michael Lewis

When residents and students voiced concerns about their neighbors and the city’s nuisance abatement ordinance, Kent City Council listened.

Since city council’s decision to give the current laws time to address the problems before creating new laws, the citizens of Kent must wait and see.

To help residents, city council has agreed to post a list of licensed boarding houses in Kent onto the city’s Web site. This will also help officials determine which houses in the neighborhood are operating illegally.

Councilman Wayne Wilson, of ward 3 in Kent, agreed with city council to give the nuisance abatement ordinance a chance to work and demonstrate results.

“I’m not big on just changing laws or throwing more laws at a problem to try and make it go away,” Wilson said.

The nuisance abatement ordinance, chapter 561 of the Codified Ordinances of Kent, lists more than 30 offenses residents could be held accountable for.

From gambling and drug abuse to recreational fires or public intoxication, the city has declared such activities public nuisances.

City Manager Dave Ruller said the nuisance abatement ordinance, which fines the property owner and tickets the violator for crimes committed on the property, deals with chronic violators. Maintaining a database of violators allows the city to pay more attention to problem properties.

“What we have now hits them in the pocket,” Ruller said. “The city has shut down as many illegal boarding houses this year as it has in the last 10 years.”

In the last year, the city closed 24 illegal rooming houses compared to three the year before. So far this year, the city has taken action on 73 properties for violating the nuisance or noise ordinance.

Since the city council meeting last month, the Kent City Police Department has warned three property owners of their first violation. They have sent four letters to property owners declaring their property a nuisance, which is considered a second violation.

According to Lt. Michelle Lee of the Kent City Police Department, once the owners receive a notice, it is up to them to do what is necessary to ensure their property does not receive further violations.

“We needed to get the attention of the property owners,” Lee said. “They can post warnings outside, speak to their renters, or send letters to renters’ parents – whatever they need to do,” Lee said.

If a third offense occurs within a six-month period, the property owner will be assessed a cost for the officers’ time. If the fire or health departments crash a party, their time will also be paid for.

Rillis Moneypenny, owner of Moneypenny Realty & Management, said he does not agree with the city fining the property owner for someone else’s actions. He believes the tenant should be fined, not the owner.

“I can’t control what they do,” Moneypenny said. “Not only are the tenants held responsible, but I’m also being held responsible for somebody else acting like a fool. I’m being punished for their actions.”

Moneypenny said the city has enforced the noise and nuisance ordinances more heavily this year than in previous years. He said he will follow the laws, but he hopes students take a look at their actions and where they party.

Greg Redmerski, sophomore broadcast journalism major, said he and his roommates were not told of the nuisance ordinance in August when they moved into their house at 325 Summit St., also known as “The Green Monster.”

“They could’ve put a letter in with our lease,” Redmerski said. “There was no grace period when we moved in. It was like hit and run and we had to go with it.

“We get a little rowdy late at night and next thing you know people are hiding from the cops,” he said. “Everybody had a place to hide when the cops came.”

Redmerski said he would like to see a more community-based relationship, where someone can walk next door and say, “Hey, your music is too loud.”

Councilman Ed Bargerstock said council voted to continue doing the “same old things.” Bargerstock pushed legislation calling for more ordinances to deal with problems reported in Ward 5.

“Right now, the jury is out,” Bargerstock said. “Time will tell. We’re headed into a different season now.”

Bargerstock said if people party in the proper place, like a bar, they should not get tickets or have problems with their neighbors.

“Even old people party,” he said. “I haven’t quit partying and I’m 51. I just do it differently.”

Contact public affairs reporter Mike Lewis at [email protected].