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Town mulls property issue

Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen discussed two procedures regarding property maintenance at its meeting Thursday, Aug. 13, one allowing the Town to aesthetically maintain properties and another referring to more extreme dereliction.

“The Board understands that these are two very different ordinances: one is for extreme cases, which would be the house is almost falling down, and the other would be for property maintenance,” Interim Town Administrator Gary Palmer said.

The prepared ordinance, for “Overgrown and Dirty Lots,” was geared more toward property maintenance, but still “would only be a last-resort type of ordinance,” he added.

The new ordinance, to be set before the Board for adoption Aug. 27, allows the town to correct violations at a problem property only if the property “threatens the public health, safety and welfare.”

“It adds to our arsenal we can use when we see it is appropriate,” Town Attorney Tom Hale said.

The Town would step in only after negotiations and discussions with property owners, Palmer said.

“We shouldn’t become someone’s landscaper,” Palmer said.

“We don’t want people sloughing off on their yard work and thinking we are going to do it for them,” Alderman Jeff Elliot said.

Outside of obvious violations Town staff happened across, Town involvement would be largely generated through the Town’s complaint system.

Alderman Bob Markli said the ordinance also should state the Town would step in only after the person making the complaint had exhausted his or her options, which could include speaking to the property owner or applying pressure through homeowners’ associations.

“All too often, people want governments to step in and take care of the problem,” Markli said.

“I think it’s a reasonable request to ask the homeowners’ association to do at least something, whatever is within their power,” Elliott said.

Alderman John Williams agreed, saying that would protect public funds from “willy-nilly requests to go out and do something.”

“The Town should not be the first level of contact. … This is not a panacea of solution,” Hale said.

If the Town did step in to maintain a property, it could recoup its costs by charging the property owner through a lien or a special assessment, with a 20 percent administrative fee.

These fee collections would be handled through the Knox County assessor’s office.

The Board took no action on the agenda item; it was for discussion only.


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