After False Starts, Chronic Nuisance Ordinance Finally to be Implemented
By Brandi Makuski
The Stevens Point Public Protection Committee on Monday agreed to implement a trial run of a new chronic nuisance ordinance, which raises the bar for property owners’ accountability of tenant actions.
More than just additional oversight for renters, the ordinance also requires a higher level of responsibility for homeowners and business owners when police are called to a property for what Police Chief Kevin Ruder described as “citeable offenses” more than three times within a 60-day period. That timeframe was increase from a 30-day window because some residents felt it wasn’t an appropriate measure of chronic problem properties.
“These are issues that affect everyone in town,” said Tori Jennings, who lives on Ellis Street. “This is a chronic nuisance ordinance; it’s intended to identify and deal with a pattern of behavior over a period of time, not a few weekends.
The chronic nuisance ordinance was proposed last November but saw sweeping objection from area landlords who said it unfairly targeted property owners who had no control over their tenants’ actions, also pointing out a laborious eviction process in the state. The proposal was brought back this summer by a group of concerned citizens who say they’ve had enough of property damage, late-night noise and vandalism in the neighborhood surrounding UWSP.
“We need to help our police department and our city as much as we can, and this is a great step,” said Cindy Nebel, president of the Old Main Neighborhood Association (OMNA). Nebel and her family have been one of many homeowners complaining of long-term problems associated with rental properties in an area police refer to as “the core”: several residential blocks surrounding the UWSP campus where police receive a large portion of calls for assistance.
Nebel has said she and other OMNA members have tried to reach out to renters and property owners alike, but some landlords seem unwilling to address the problems.
Garett Ryan said he and his wife are considering moving out of the city because of the problems they’ve experienced with their home on Main Street.
“We bought our house a year and a half ago and we’ve called the police six times. We could’ve called them more- we’ve had our house peed on, we’ve been cussed at, there are massive parties across the street at 3 AM; it’s just not acceptable to not force these people to police their own business. To allow them to operate that way doesn’t make sense to me,” Ryan told the Council.
Alderman Mike Wiza said the ordinance isn’t designed to punish people, but also was a necessity because, “you can’t create an ordinance which tells people to be a decent human being.”
“This isn’t to punish property owner; this is to hold people accountable when you don’t follow city ordinances,” Wiza said. “If you’re a landlord or property owner that has multiple calls, I mean, respect your neighbors. I think it is unfortunate we need to have an ordinance that says that.”
City Attorney Andrew Beveridge said the ordinance will be implemented with a sunset clause, making for a good compromise.
“Obviously this has been controversial, but incorporating a sunset clause will essentially let us see how it goes for a while, then let’s bring some data in and then bring it back before the Council at a later date,” Beveridge said.
Beveridge recommended the ordinance be implemented for about 18 months- long enough to see its effect over a full year of UWSP classes as well as summer months.
“This has been in front of us multiple times, and we’ve had a lot of feedback from residents and department heads,” said Council President Jeremy Slowinski. “I feel it’s time to just implement this.”
The ordinance still needs full Council approval during the Nov. 17 meeting, held at 7 PM in the courthouse. The public is welcome to attend.