With a string of old, vacant buildings on Main Street in Eureka becoming a potential public hazard, how to move forward with addressing the problematic structures has taken a huge leap forward. The Eureka County Board of Commissioners after a public hearing on Aug. 6, approved amending the 2006 Eureka County Code, Title 6, Health & Welfare, Chapter 80, Abatement of Dangerous Structures.
The amended ordinance includes the definition of a dangerous structure as a “condition that is a public nuisance which may cause injury to or endanger the health, life, property, or safety of the general public or the occupants, if any, of the real property on which the structure or condition is located. Any such structure in Eureka County is declared to be a public nuisance.”
In addition, the amendment eliminates the State Fire Marshall’s absolute authority over the identification of dangerous structures in Eureka County, which means the process can move more swiftly given the past difficulties inherent in working with the State Fire Marshall that are now eliminated.
The amendment states, “The procedures in this chapter are triggered only if the District Attorney is notified in writing that a dangerous structure exists in Eureka County. This written notification, if supplied by a private party, must be accompanied by a stamped report from a Nevada licensed structural engineer stating the structure or condition is in fact a dangerous structure.
“The written notification, if supplied by a representative of federal, state, or local government, must be accompanied as much information as possible, and must include a stamped report of a licensed structural engineer whenever authorization to enter upon and inspect the structure or condition is granted. If no access is authorized, a written report of an exterior examination of a dangerous structure will suffice to trigger this chapter.”
The ordinance then outlines the property owner being informed by certified mail of their having a dangerous structure and that they have no more than 30 days from the date of the notice to abate the dangerous structure. The property owner can request a hearing to review, but the 30-day period “will be tolled from the time you request a hearing to the time you receive a decision following that hearing.
However, if you fail to respond to this Notice the County will go forward with the procedures of the Eureka County Code, a copy of which is enclosed.”
The hearing would be before the Director of Public Works with the District Attorney inviting “the author(s) of any report and all interested parties to attend the hearing. The property owner may present anything to support his or her position. The hearing shall be conducted in no more than 60 days from the time a request for hearing is received by the District Attorney.”
While the hearing won’t be recorded or transcribed, “Any party may provide for recording or transcription at their own expense.”
The Public Works Director shall within five days after the hearing issue written findings informing the property owner whether or not the documentation and all other information has established there is a dangerous structure on the owner’s property that must be abated; or if during the hearing “the parties present can formulate a plan to do more investigation or to move forward to abate the dangerous structure and the written findings will memorialize that plan with reference to specific time frames to accomplish the plan.”
After the Public Works Director’s findings are issued, the property owner still has a chance to appeal to the Board of County Commissioners. “Failure to appeal with start the remainder of the 30 day period described by the initial Notice sent to you to run out.”
Such an appeal to the commissioners “shall be conducted in no more than 60 days from the time a request for appeal hearing is received by the District Attorney.” That appeal hearing “shall be transcribed by a duly licensed court reporter.”
The Commissioners “shall, at the time of or before the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board, issue written findings.” If the determination of dangerous structure stands after all these processes, the Ordinance says, “Upon the expiration of the thirty (30) day period in the initial notice and the property owner’s failure to abate the dangerous structure, the County shall proceed with abatement. All costs of investigation of the dangerous structure and its abatement shall be charged against the property owner.”
As stated in the ordinance prior to amendment, “The County will recover money expended for labor and materials used to abate the condition of the property if the owner fails to abate the condition” by first sending a demand letter informing the property owner of the amount owed the County; then by the Board of County Commissioners directing the District Attorney to treat the expense of abatement as a lien upon the property subject to the dangerous structure with the lien “perfected by mailing by certified mail a notice of the lien separately prepared for each lot affected as determined by the real property assessment roll; and with a filing with the County Recorder of a statement of the amount due and unpaid and describing the property subject to the lien.” If the owner “fails to or refuses to arrange for payment in a timely manner, the Board of County Commissioners may authorize the District Attorney to commence suit against the property owner for the recovery of the money.”
Beyond the costs charged against the property owner for abatement, “the County shall charge a civil penalty of $500 per day for each day after the hearing and appeal periods have been exhausted and the dangerous structure remains.”
A special assessment section has been added to the ordinance that states, “In addition to any other reasonable means for recovering money expended by the County to abate the dangerous structure, all expenses and civil penalties are a special assessment against the property upon which the dangerous structure is or was located, and this special assessment may be collected pursuant to N.R.S. 244.360(4) and N.R.S. 244.3605 as amended” with review of “any such assessment” possible “first before the Department of Public Works Director or with appeal before the Board of Commissioners.”
The changes noted above are from the red-lined Ordinance on which the Commission voted. The Ordinance, passed on August 6th will become effective upon its publication in the newspaper at which point the signed Ordinance will be available to the public.