Marietta City Council expects to begin a community dialogue in early January to update the city's participation in the International Property Management Code, a uniform guide to minimum standards for housing, vacant buildings, abandoned vehicles and other quality of life issues.
The city of Marietta currently operates under the IPMC of 1998 which was adopted July 1, 1999. The city council's planning, zoning and annexation committee has a series of eight meetings/hearings beginning Jan. 8, 2013 so that community members may help shape Marietta's planning future as it celebrates its 225th birthday.
Recently retired city engineering project manager Wayne Rinehart recently told the city administration and council that there are people in the historic river city living in unsafe conditions. Rinehart retired after 31 years involvement with the engineering department. The engineering and Marietta City Health Department largely are charged with responding to complaints about building health and safety issues, but employees complain that no rules for enforcement or penalties were included in the 1999 adoption of the property management code.
As examples, neighbors began filing written complaints to the health department in 2004 about a house near the Marietta Middle School piled with animal waste and now vacant the past several years. The house still sits full of black mold, animal waste and piles of deteriorating home furnishings. Another property contains the remains of a basement filled with broken concrete blocks and nail protruding boards and rafters. Several dozen feet away, a dilapidated house sits open to all as an "attractive nuisance." Marietta Middle School students regularly travel through the area because it includes a biking/hiking trail and a former city street right of way through the woods. In the heart of Marietta's historic downtown, another house sits collapsing from inside out as floors and ceilings disintegrate and mold consumes wall paper.
There are stories behind each property. Some exist in estates. Others are owned by those who would like federal and state money to clean up individually owned property. Some are owned by absentee landlords who don't have to look at their properties on a daily basis as nearby neighbors must.
Former Marietta City Law Director Roland W. Riggs III was quoted during the process of demolishing 34 homes using federal stimulus money during the Great Recession that the city would be lucky because of legal and financial limitations to pursue the demolition of two houses a year on its own. Between 2001 and 2008, the city demolished five houses. It still has to recoup the cost of demolishing those houses, which costs range from $3,000 to $16,000.
The 2012 International Property Management Code provides tools the city may use to tackle long-standing issues which detract from neighborhoods, decrease property values and result in health and safety hazards for residents and visitors. One of th primary issues involves having someone with the authority and resources to enforce the city codes and follow up where action isn't taken.
The planning meetings/hearings begin Tuesday, Jan. 8 in the second floor conference room of 304 Putnam St. across the street from city hall.
The meetings are open to everyone. If attendance requires, future meetings will be moved to Marietta City Council chambers at Lookout Park on Harmar Hill.
Marietta City Councilman Roger G. Kalter represents the 1st Ward.