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Chapter 33 – Nuisance





3-33-1              Definition of Nuisance         


3-33-9              Abatement in an Emergency           

3-33-2              Definitions                              3-33-10            Abatement by City

3-33-3              Public Nuisances Affecting  3-33-11            Collection of Costs

                        Peace, Safety, and General   3-33-12            Failure to Abate

                        Welfare                                  3-33-13            Penalties for Failure to Abate

3-33-4              Nuisances Prohibited            3-33-14            Abatement, Impounding, and

3-33-5              Abatement                                                     Disposal of Junk Motor Vehicles

3-33-6              Notice to Abate: Contents

3-33-7              Method of Service

3-33-8              Request for Hearing 

SECTION 3-33-1                  DEFINITION OF NUISANCE Whatever is injurious to health, indecent, or unreasonably offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property so as essentially to interfere unreasonably with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property is a nuisance.

SECTION 3-33-2                  DEFINITIONS.  As used in this ordinance, the following terms shall have the following definitions:

(1)   Front Yard Area:  shall mean all that area between the front property line and a line drawn along the front face or faces of the principal structure on the property and extended to the side property lines.

(2)   Side Yard Corner Lots:  shall mean the yard area adjacent to the street right-of-way on a corner lot extending from the front yard along the side of the structure to the rear property line.

(3)  Weeds:  shall mean noxious or otherwise, untended vines, brush and scrub bushes, grass and other similar vegetation.

(4)   Outside:  shall mean to be outside of an enclosed storage facility and visible from any other property or the public right-of-way.

(5)   All Weather Surface:  shall mean asphalt, Portland cement concrete, turf blocks, brick pavers, and gravel all of sufficient thickness to adequately support motor vehicles.

(6)   Unsafe Building:  shall mean any structure or mobile home meeting any or all of the following criteria:

            a.)   Various Inadequacies. Whenever the building or structure, or any portion thereof, is likely to partially or completely collapse because of:       

                       i.          Dilapidation, deterioration, or decay;

                      ii.         Faulty construction;

                      iii.        The removal, movement or instability of any portion of the ground     necessary for the purpose of supporting such building.

                      iv.        The deterioration, decay or inadequacy of its foundation; or

                       v.        Any other cause

             b.)  Manifestly Unsafe: Whenever, for any reason, the building or structure, or any  portion thereof, is manifestly unsafe for the purpose for which it is being used.

             c.)  Inadequate Maintenance: Whenever a building or structure, used or intended to be used for dwelling purposes, because of dilapidation, decay, damage, faulty construction, or otherwise, is determined by any health officer to be unsanitary, unfit for human habitation or in such condition that it is likely to cause sickness or disease.

            d.)  Fire Hazard:  Whenever any building or structure, because of dilapidated condition, deterioration, damage, or other cause, is determined by the Fire Marshal or Fire Chief to be a fire hazard.

             e.)   Abandoned: Whenever any portion of a building or structure remains on a site after the demolition or destruction of the building or structure or whenever any building or structure is abandoned for a period in excess of six (6) months so as to constitute such building or portion thereof an attractive nuisance or hazard to the public.

(7)        Person:   includes for the purposes of this ordinance any individual, firm, corporation, trust, any other organized group, or any governmental body.

(8)        Abandoned Vehicle:   A motor vehicle which has remained for a period more than forty-eight (48) hours on public property. A motor vehicle that has remained for a period of more than twenty (20) days on private property with or without the consent of the person in control of the property, in an inoperable condition, unless it is kept in an enclosed garage or storage building, shall also be considered an abandoned vehicle. It shall also mean a motor vehicle voluntarily surrendered by its owner to the City or to a towing contractor hired by the City for its removal. A junk vehicle shall also be considered an abandoned vehicle for the purpose of this ordinance.

(9)        Storage or Stored:  Shall mean the continuous parking of a vehicle, motor vehicle, or part thereof upon private property for more than twenty (20) days when not completely housed in an enclosed building.

(10)      Junk Vehicle:  A motor vehicle or trailer which is not currently licensed or which is in an inoperable condition or which is partially dismantled, or which is used for sale of parts or as a source of repair or replacement parts for other vehicles or which is kept for scrapping, dismantling or salvage of any kind, unless such vehicle is kept in an enclosed garage or storage building. A junk vehicle shall also include any vehicle used for demolition derbies. A junk vehicle shall also mean a vehicle or part of a vehicle that is not in operating condition, because of any one of the following characteristics, constitutes a threat to the public health and safety.

            (a)   Any vehicle with a broken or cracked windshield, window, headlight, or tail light, or any other cracked or broken glass.

             (b)   Any vehicle with a broken or loose fender, door, bumper, hood, hood ornament, door handle, window handle, running board, steering wheel, trunk top, trunk handle, radio aerial, tailpipe, or decorative piece.

              (c)   Any vehicle which has become the habitat of rats, mice, or snakes, or any other vermin or insects.

              (d)   Any vehicle which contains gasoline or any other flammable fuel.

              (e)   Any other vehicle which, because of its defective or obsolete condition, in any way constitutes a threat to the public health safety.

(11)      Inoperable Condition: Means that the vehicle has no substantial potential use consistent with its usual function, and shall include a vehicle that:

(a)   Has a missing or defective part that is necessary for the normal operation of the vehicle.

(b)  Or is stored on blocks, jacks, or other supports

(c)   Has not had a current vehicle license for at least twenty (20) days

(d)    Has not moved under its own power for at least twenty (20) days.

SECTION 3-33-3                  PUBLIC NUISANCES AFFECTING PEACE, SAFETY, AND GENERAL WELFARE. The following are declared to be nuisances affecting public peace, safety and general welfare.       

(1)   Trees, Vegetation, Flowers, Hedges, Etc.  All trees, vegetation, flowers, hedges, signage or other obstruction, whether natural or man made, which prevent persons from having a clear view of all traffic approaching an intersection as defined in 321.1 (33) Code of Iowa, or any successor provision thereto, and all trees, hedges, signage or other obstructions located on city right-of-way, whether natural or man  made which prevents a person using a private driveway or street from having a clear view of all traffic approaching on any public street, highway, alley or roadway.

(2)   Old Machinery, Junk, Etc  The piling, storage or keeping of old or unused machinery, machinery parts, junk, tires, wheels, boats, broken or unused furniture, household furnishings, appliance or component parts thereof or other debris within the city. This section shall not apply to ornaments consisting of machinery or machinery parts or to units of antique machinery owned and maintained as collector’s items.

(3)   Abandoned and Junk Vehicles.

            (a)    The accumulation and outside storage of storage of such abandoned, junk, or obsolete vehicles is in the nature of rubbish, litter, and unsightly debris and is a blight on the landscape and a detriment to the environment.  

            (b)   Any vehicle, whether occupied or not, that is found stopped or parked in violation of any ordinance or state statute for more than twenty-four (24) hours; or that is reported stolen; or that is impeding fire fighting, snow removal or plowing or the orderly flow of traffic.

            (c)   Any vehicle which is impeding public road or utility repair, construction, or maintenance activities after reasonable notice in writing of the proposed activities has been given to the vehicle owner or user at least twelve (12) hours in advance.

(4)   Garbage, Trash, Refuse, Rubbish, Etc.   The depositing of, maintaining, permitting, or failing to remove garbage, trash, rubbish, bottles, cans, cartons, boxes, clothing, rags or other refuse on any property within the city including quantities of organic debris and material which accumulated by other than natural means, except neatly maintained compost piles.

(5)   Placing Glass on Street or Sidewalk.   It shall be unlawful for any person within the corporate limits of this City to throw or place in any street, sidewalk or public place within the City any broken glass, glass bottle, or other articles of glass, tacks, nails, or any other sharp pointed materials, substances, or things.

(6)   Littering Streets and Sidewalks.   It shall be unlawful for any person within the corporate limits of this City to throw, deposit, or cause to be thrown or deposited, and without promptly removing the same, any leaves and grass or weed clippings, paper, cards, trash or rubbish, advertisements or the like into any street, alley, sidewalk, or other public place within the City.

(7)   Lumber, Construction Materials.   The outside storage of pipes, lumber, piles of dirt, sand and sod, forms, machinery or other construction materials upon property other than the place of intended use in the front yard or side yard corner lot in any residential district for more than forty-five (45) days. The outside storage of any construction materials for more than sixty (60) days after construction has been completed or occupancy by consent of the owner or a certificate of occupancy has been issued, which ever comes first.

(8)   Weeds, Growth to be Cut.   All weeds growing on lots and parcels of ground within the city limits shall, after dates set forth below, automatically be deemed a health, safety and fire hazards and shall be cut not later than said date shown below for each cutting. In cases of a second or third growth or said weeds, the owners or occupants shall again cut or otherwise destroy the growth before the time set following:

            (a)   Required Cutting Dates

                          i.        April 15           v.         July 1               ix.        September 1

                         ii.        May 1              vi.        July 15             x.         September 15

                        iii.        May 15            vii.       August 1         xi.        October 1

                         iv.       June 1              viii.      August 15       xii.       October 15

            (b)        Maximum Vegetation Height             Land Use

                        i.          Six (6) inches                          Developed residential, commercial

                                                                                           and industrial zoned areas

                        ii.         Twelve (12) inches                  Underdeveloped residential,

commercial and industrial zoned areas and railroad right-of-way

iii.        Eighteen (18) inches               Unplatted property and agriculture   

zoned property unplanted for farm cropping purposes

The purpose owner(s) and occupant(s) shall also be jointly and severally responsible for the cutting of such growth on the abutting space between the lot line and the curb line or edge of the traveled way within the street right-of-way whether in front of or along the side of the lot or parcel of ground, and one-half of an alley abutting the property. The City Council, by the Police Department, shall notify the property owner(s) and occupant(s) when the weeds and/or growth are no longer than the limits set out in this section. If the weeds and/or growth are not cut within 72 hours after the notice, then the City of Belle Plaine, Iowa will have the weeds and/or growth cut and assess the cost in accordance with Section 3-21-11 of the Belle Plaine Municipal Code. The City of Belle Plaine shall notify the property owners by posting on the door of the residence, by person service or by sending notice by mail to the property owner with delivery confirmation.

The cost for mowing residential lots shall be $100.00 for the first mowing and $200.00 for each additional mowing during any one calendar year. The costs for mowing commercial or industrial lots shall be at the rate of $75.00 per hour per person with a minimum charge of $100.00.

              (c)   Waiver for Weeds, Growth to be Cut.  The property owner(s) or occupant(s) may allow grass to extend beyond the maximum vegetation heights set out in Subsection (b) if the adjacent or abutting property owner(s) or occupant(s) waive all complaints pursuant to the height of the grass.

                     i.)         The property owner(s) or occupant(s) of tracts land of  three (3) or more acres under single ownership within the city may allow vegetation to extend beyond the maximum vegetation heights set out in Subsection (b) so long as all of the conditions specified below are certified as fulfilled by the owner or occupant in a written application form, and a written waiver form is issued by the City Administrator, filled out in full, presented to the Fire Chief for investigation, and submitted to the City Administrator for final approval.

                    ii)         The owners of at least fifty-one (51%) of the frontage feet of property abutting such tract must consent in writing attached to the application form; if the application is submitted by the occupant other than the owner of the tract upon which the extended growth is requested, the written consent of the owner shall also be shown; and

                     iii)        A firebreak thirty (30) feet in width on all sides of such tract shall be mowed to the height required in Subsection (b); and

                    iv)        The tract shall contain no “noxious weeds” as defined in Section 317.1, Code of Iowa; and

                    v)         The Belle Plaine Fire Chief will certify in writing that the growths permitted hereunder on such tract will not violate the state fire code.

                    vi)        Subsequent failure of any one or more of the foregoing conditions shall void the waiver issued hereunder and immediately subject the property owners to the remedies provided for the abatement of nuisances under the Code of Ordinances and Code of Iowa.

9.   Property Not Seeded or Sodded.  Property in a residential district not seeded, sodded or otherwise planted with a ground cover more than two hundred forty (240) days after any disturbance in the front year or side yard corner lots caused by construction, grading, or other activity, excluding gardens; or at any time prior to the two hundred forty (240) days if the property is causing erosion or drainage problems on the same or nearby properties, including public streets.

10.   Wood Piles.  Trees branches, logs or any accumulation of firewood in any front yard or side corner lot for a period of more than ten (10) days and the accumulation of any piles of wood which are not stacked or secured in a stable manner to avoid collapse.

11.   Exterior of Residential Structures.  Any structure or portion thereof, in a residential district which exterior is not completed in accordance with city approved construction plans within three hundred sixty (360) days after construction commences.

12.   Mail and Newsprint Receptacles.  The placement of mail boxes and other newsprint receptacles on public right-of-way, except those which are in compliance with the United States Postal Services requirement for location and type and on a common post.

13.   Removal of Snow, Ice, and Obstructions from Sidewalks.  All property owners shall keep the sidewalks abutting their property free from snow, ice or other obstruction or accumulations. If such property owner fails to remove the same for a period of twenty-four (24) hours after the same has been deposited thereon the City Administrator or the City Administrator’s designee may cause the same to be removed. Such officer shall file with the City Clerk a statement of the cost thereof which shall be $1.00 per running foot of the walk from which the accumulations are removed. Thereupon the cost of the removal shall be levied against the property as a special assessment in the same manner and under the same procedure as special assessments are levied for the construction of sidewalks.

         a)   Nothing in this section shall prevent the City from treating a violation of this section as a municipal infraction.

14.   Air Pollution.  Emissions of dense smoke, noxious fumes, gas and soot, cinders or fly ash.

15.   Dutch Elm Disease & Disease Control of Trees.  Trees infected with Dutch Elm Disease, and any dead diseased or damaged tree or shrub which may harbor serious insects or disease pests or disease injurious to other trees.

          a)  The Council shall inspect or cause to be inspected any trees or shrubs in the City reported or suspected to be dead, diseased or damaged, and such trees and shrubs shall be subject to the following:

                i)  City Property. If it is determined that any such condition exists on any public property, including the strip between the curb and the lot line of private property, the Council may cause such condition to be corrected by treatment or removal. The Council may also order the removal of any trees on the streets of the City which interfere with the making of improvements or with travel thereon.

                ii)  Private Property.  If it is determined with reasonable certainty that any such condition exists on private property and that danger to other trees or to adjoining property or passing motorists or pedestrians is imminent, the Council shall notify by personal service or certified mail the owner, occupant or person in charge of such property to correct such condition by treatment or removal within ten (10) days of said notification. If such owner, occupant or person in charge of said property fails to comply within ten (10) days of receipt of notice, the Council may cause the condition to be corrected and the cost assessed in accordance with Section 3-21-11 of the Belle Plaine Municipal Code.

16.   Trees and Tree Limbs.  All limbs of trees which are less than ten (10) feet above the surface of any public sidewalk, or less than fifteen (15) feet above any public street or alley.

17.   Wires.  All wires which are strung less than fifteen (15) above the surface of the ground over streets, alleys or sidewalks.

18.   Dangerous Buildings.  All buildings or structures which are structurally unsafe or not provided with adequate egress, or which constitute a fire hazard, or are otherwise dangerous to human life, or which in relation to existing use constitute a hazard to safety or health, or public welfare, by reason of inadequate maintenance, dilapidation, obsolete, or abandonment, are for the purpose of this chapter, unsafe buildings. All such unsafe buildings are hereby declared to be public nuisances and shall be abated by repair, rehabilitation, demolition, or removal in accordance with the procedures specified in this chapter.

19.   All diseased animals running at large.

20.   All ponds or pools of stagnant water.

21.   Carcasses of animals not disposed of within twenty-four (24) hours after death as provided by law.

22.   The pollution of any public well or cistern, stream, lake, canal, or body of water by sewage, creamery, or industrial wastes, or other substances.

23.   The placement, storage, or allowing the placement of storage of ice fish houses, skateboard ramps or other similar non-permanent structures outside continuously for longer than twenty-four (24) hours in the front yard area or side yard corner lots on property used for residential purposes and/or on residentially zoned property.

24.   The placement, storage, or allowing the placement or storage of pipe, lumber, forms, steel, machinery or similar materials including all materials used in connection with a business, outside on property used for residential purposes, and/or residentially zoned property.

25.   The causing, undertaking, permitting, or allowing the outside parking and storage of vehicles on property within the City limits unless it complies with the following requirements:

            a)  Vehicles which are parked or stored outside in the front yard area or side yard corner lots must be on an all weather surface driveway which shall not exceed thirty percent (30%) of the front yard or side yard corner lot. Driveways exceeding thirty percent (30%) of the front yard or side yard corner lot prior to the adoption of the former Chapter 29.25 (a) are exempt providing no additional surface area is added.

            b.)   Parking or storing of watercraft or trailers is prohibited within the front yard areas, side yard corner lots, and public streets or right-of-ways. Exception: watercraft or trailer parking is permitted on side yard corner lots where the rear yard is not accessible as long as the trailer is parked upon an all weather driveway surface.

            c.)   Exceptions. The prohibitions of this section shall not apply to the following:

                    i)    Any motor truck, pick-up or similar vehicle being used by a public utility, moving company or similar company, which is actually being used to serve a residence not belonging to or occupied by the operator of the vehicle.

                    ii)   Any vehicle which is actually making a pickup or delivery at the location where it is parked. Parking for any period of time beyond the period of time reasonably necessary to make such pickup or delivery.

            iii)  Lawful and non-conforming and permitted uses.

            iv)  Parking on all-weather surfaces in front yard areas in place at the date of the adoption of the former Chapter 35.13 (4) (d).

SECTION 3-33-4                  NUISANCES PROHIBITED.   The creation or maintenance of a nuisance is prohibited, and a nuisance, public or private, may be abated in the manner provided for in this chapter or under State Law.

SECTION 3-33-5                  NUISANCE ABATEMENT.  Whenever the Mayor or other authorized officer finds that a nuisance exists, such officer shall cause to be served upon the property owner a written notice to abate the nuisance within seven (7) days after notice. Any property owner who violates the provisions of this chapter will be given one (1) notice per year. The notice shall remain in effect for 365 days from the date of service and the City will be authorized to respond to additional violations without additional written notice being given.

SECTION 3-33-6                  NOTICE TO ABATE: CONTENT.  The notice to abate shall contain:

            1.)   Description of Nuisance. A description of which constituted the nuisance.

            2.   Location of Nuisance. The location of the nuisance.

             3.   Acts Necessary to Abate. A statement of the act or acts necessary to abate the nuisance.

            4.   Time.  A seven (7) day period within which to complete the abatement.

             5.   Hearing.  A five (5) day period within which to request a hearing with the City Council to determine whether a nuisance exists. 

6.   Assessment of City Costs.  A statement that if the nuisance or condition is not abated as directed and no request for hearing is made within the five (5) day time period prescribed, the City will abate it and assess the costs against such person.

SECTION 3-33-7                  METHOD OF SERVICE.   A notice must be in writing and personally served upon the person or sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the property owner and/or the person in possession of the property.

SECTION 3-33-8                  REQUEST FOR HEARING. Any person ordered to abate a nuisance my request to have a hearing with the Council as to whether a nuisance exists. A request for a hearing must be made in writing and delivered to the Clerk within the time period stated in the notice, or it will be conclusively presumed that a nuisance exists and it must be abated as ordered. The hearing will be before the Council at a time and place fixed by the Council. The findings of the Council shall be conclusive and, if a nuisance is found to exist, it shall be ordered abated within a reasonable time period under the circumstances.

SECTION 3-33-9                  ABATEMENT IN AN EMERGENCY.  If it is determined that an emergency exists by reason of the continuing maintenance of the nuisance or condition, the City may perform any action which may be required under this chapter without prior notice. The City shall assess the costs as provided in this Chapter, after notice to the property owner under the applicable provisions of this Chapter and a hearing.

SECTION 3-33-10                ABATEMENT BY CITY.  If the person notified to abate a nuisance or condition neglect or fails to abate as directed, the City may perform the required action to abate, keeping an accurate account of the expense incurred. The itemized expense account shall be filed with the Clerk who shall pay such expenses on behalf of the City.

1.)   Motor Vehicles.  This section shall also apply to the movement and disposal of motor vehicles. The costs of towing, storage, and disposal of motor vehicles that are not claimed by their owner of record, shall be assessed according to the provisions in Section 3-21-11 to the owner of the property that the vehicle was removed from. The owner of the property that the motor vehicle was removed from, shall be entitled to a credit towards the cost for income derived from the disposal of the motor vehicle.

SECTION 3-33-11                COLLECTION OF COSTS.  The Clerk shall send a statement of the total expense incurred by certified mail to the property owner who has failed to abide by the notice to abate, and if the amount shown by the statement has not been paid within thirty (30) days, the Clerk shall certify the cost to the County Treasurer and such cost shall then be collected with, and in the same manner, as general property taxes.

SECTION 3-33-12                FAILURE TO ABATE. Any person causing or maintaining a nuisance who shall fail to refuse to abate or remove the same within the time required and specified in the notice to abate is in violation of this Code of Ordinances.

SECTION 3-33-13                PENALTIES FOR FAILURE TO ABATE. Violation of this ordinance shall be deemed to be a municipal infraction and subject to penalties as prescribed by Chapter 364.22, 2007 Code of Iowa, with the minimum penalty for the first offense being $250.00, and the minimum penalty for repeat offense being $500.00.

SECTION 3-33-14                ABATEMENT, IMPOUNDING AND DISPOSAL OF JUNK MOTOR VEHICLES.  If any obsolete vehicle, motor vehicle or part thereof is stored upon property in violation of the provisions of this ordinance the Chief of Police or any police officer may order said vehicle or part towed or hauled to legally authorized places directed by the City Council for storage and the costs of such towing and storage may be charged to the owner or operator of said vehicle, motor vehicle or part thereof, but not to exceed the actual cost of such towing and a charge of fifteen dollars ($15.00) per day, and that said towing and storage charges shall be in addition to any fines or penalties which may be fixed as provided for in this ordinance. Vehicles or parts thereof not claimed by the owner within twenty (20) days after entering storage with all towing and storage expenses fully paid shall be disposed of as abandoned vehicles provided at 321.89 and 321.90 of the 2008 Code of Iowa.

SECTION 3-33-15                INSPECTION OF PREMISES. The City Administrator and/or designee is authorized to enter and remain upon private property to the extent reasonably necessary for the purpose of locating, and documenting any nuisances as defined in Chapter 21, or for the purpose of investigating allegations of such nuisances

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