York City to crack down on neglected properties

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

With new devices in hand, York City’s five property inspectors will step up enforcement of the city’s ordinance regulating property maintenance, trash and debris.

The increased enforcement efforts will begin July 15, with inspectors using the new technology to hand out fines from $25 to $300 for property maintenance violations. Citations for illegal dumping run $1,000, while dumping hazardous waste will prompt a $5,000 ticket, according to a news release. 

Recycling bins and trash as well as furniture and other items collect in a yard in York City, Thursday, July 6, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The Neighborhood Improvement Ordinance has been on the city’s books for nearly three years, but until recently, inspectors could not possibly keep up with violations because of crippling amounts of paperwork for each instance, said York City Councilman Henry Nixon.

Adopted in August 2014, Article 730 of the York City Codified Ordinance regulates litter, trash, abandoned and junked vehicles, hazardous waste and illegal dumping. Property maintenance inspectors from the city’s Bureau of Permits, Planning and Zoning are responsible for enforcement under the ordinance.

Nixon said he has been working with Steven Buffington, the bureau’s deputy director, for much of 2017 to figure out how the city can step up its ordinance-enforcement efforts, and updating inspectors’ technology was at the top of the list. 

“We didn’t have the right technology at the time” the ordinance passed, but now that the city has new handheld devices, property maintenance inspectors can instantly document violations and issue citations on the spot, Nixon said. 

Property-value problem: The prevalence of trash-filled and blighted properties is one of the greatest concerns for city residents, second only to crime and public safety, Nixon said. 

For years, city residents have filed numerous complaints at York City Hall about properties turning into illegal dumping sites, homes busting at the seams with trash and yards filled with junked and abandoned cars. 

Neighbors of unkempt properties have every reason to complain, as these types of properties drive down property values throughout the city, Nixon said.

Many of the properties in York City are valued near $30,000, and some residents’ attitudes and actions reflect the lack of value they see in their properties, Nixon said.

Much like the broken windows theory of policing, the theory is that a debris-filled property that goes unpunished creates a level of acceptance and sets the standard for others who are less than inclined to maintain their own properties, Nixon said.

By boosting property-maintenance enforcement efforts, Nixon said officials are hoping to help drive up the value of properties in the city, which will encourage residents to do regular maintenance and upkeep on their properties — further boosting property values, Nixon said.

“We can’t resurrect the city if property values are that cheap and people don’t have any respect” for their properties, Nixon said.