The City Council and staff have been working on updates to city law in hopes of cracking down on nuisance properties. The current updates seek to address properties where residents amass large collections of cars, live in RVs and allow people to camp in tents on their land.
Council members have said those activities create a public health risk and become eyesores that devalue properties. Neighbors tend to complain about the homes, too, and direct their frustrations toward City Hall.
But not all disheveled properties violate the letter of Spokane Valley’s nuisance code, which includes a host of restrictions aimed at preserving public health and maintaining neighborhood aesthetics.
The new proposed amendments would attempt to beef up city code by banning adult camping, living in an RV without a city-approved permit and owning a large number of unconcealed cars.
The City Council likely will approve some amendments in the near future. But after nearly two hours of public comment and debate on Tuesday, council members voted to remove an entire section of the draft law and postpone a vote on the full ordinance until a later date.
City Councilman Ben Wick motioned to strike a section of the draft that would have prevented homeowners from storing on their property more than five operable vehicles, one RV and one boat on a licensed trailer.
“I think we kind of went a little too far, especially when we talk about operable vehicles,” Wick said.
City Council members Tim Hattenburg, Laura Padden and Brandi Peetz voted alongside Wick, while Mayor Pam Haley and council members Arne Woodard and Rod Higgins opposed the motion.
Wick, Padden and Peetz all said they want city staff to bring back a less restrictive draft ordinance to the City Council to consider.
All seven City Council members voted in favor of postponing a vote on the full amendments, but not everyone was happy about it.
Woodard and Haley are both stressed that the city has to crack down on these nuisance properties soon.
“I’m about ready to throw my hands up,” Woodard said.
Haley said the updates are desperately needed. These properties tend to be hotspots of drug dealing and prostitution, she said.
“It’s about the people who now have taken advantage and are now doing everything that they can do to make a living not working,” Haley said.
City Manager John Hohman told the council that his staff need clear direction on how to tweak the draft laws.
“You have been receiving complaints year, after year, after year, after year,” Hohman said. “You have a neighborhood that’s very consistently maintained and then you have one house with 10, 15 cars on the front lawn. That’s what you were trying to tackle.”