By Greg Walters
There has been a lot of comment lately about Mayor Bower’s position that we should talk to our neighbors about problems in the neighborhood. Then, only as a last resort, call city hall’s codes department for enforcement.
For instance, there is an ordinance that allows for trash containers to be placed at the curb for 24 hours. Most people follow that rule. A few sometimes forget. But there is a large enough of a minority that ignore it for it to be a visual detriment to our city. Unfortunately, if appears that part of that minority works for the city’s code enforcement division.
Doubt my word about the problem? Take a look at these pictures. They were taken on Sunday, August 23rd. Since there is no residential trash removal service operating in Raytown on the weekend, it is certain that the trash containers have been out longer than 24 hours.
(I could have placed more on this page – but our web server limits the amount of space we use on our weekly post)
That is the formula for a neighborhood dispute that will only fester and grow as time goes on. It is the reason the city hires code enforcement officers to help maintain the city’s appearance. It also addresses the core of the problem. The violator does not care that he/she is in violation until they are officially called on it by someone in authority. Then, just as in grade school, they sit up straight.
The following is a true story. It was told to me by our former City Administrator, Curt Wenson. There was a renter who lived within stone throwing distance of city hall who regularly and blatantly flouted nearly every code violation on the books. Wenson had the Public Works Director, Beau Groceman (at that time code enforcement was under Public Works) to explain the law to the miscreant.
Here is what the violator told Groceman, "I moved to Raytown so that I could live like this. Now get off of my property."
Thankfully, that individual has moved away and is probably trashing up another neighborhood. But it points to the flaw in the Mayor’s plan. Some people cannot be reasoned with. I am certain Beau was surprised at the answer he received. And remember this, Beau is a big man, who, at the time, held a lot of authority in the city.
The Mayor is off-base when he tells the public to (basically) test the waters for the city’s code department. A private citizen does not have the backup of a city behind them in such a confrontation.
But I will take a page from Mayor Bower’s "neighbors helping neighbors" plan.
He should consider this article a kind reminder to our city codes department that we have set high standards for them. This year they have enjoyed a 5% pay increase when many in our town received no increase in pay. Some saw their salaries cut, others lost their jobs. They have a job to do – they should go do it.
As I stated earlier, some of the pictured violations may be a simple oversight. Many are repeat offenders. They choose to ignore their responsibility. Our codes department becomes part of the problem if they ignore it as well.
As many readers know, I ride in a bicycle road trip across Iowa each year. Last year that route took us through Iowa City. Iowa City is the home of the University of Iowa. It is a beautiful college town. As we peddled through the streets a fellow rider pointed out a couch sitting on a front porch. He told me that couch would be gone within a week. I asked why. He told me that a lot of the students used to put couches on the front porches. So many that it became a major eyesore. The local town council passed an ordinance forbidding the practice.
The lack of couches on front porches (I only saw the one) show that they take their ordinances seriously in Iowa City. We should so in Raytown as well.
Some would say "what’s wrong with leaving your trash containers in the front yard, on the curb, etc., etc. Besides being butt ugly, it detracts from the property values of all in the neighborhood. It would be akin to someone parting out a car in their front yard. If you want to have the lifestyle of a hillbilly, you should go to the hills to do so. But in a densely populated area – and 30,000 people in 10 square miles fits that description – everyone should conform to the standards of the majority.
It is why we have zoning codes and property maintenance codes. I sat on the Board of Aldermen in Raytown for 27 years. Believe me when I tell you the codes are in place. Enforcement is the key to making them work for our city. Neighbors Helping Neighbors Experience… By Richard Tush
I want to share with everyone my first hand experience of issues that arise with neighbors helping neighbors. About five years ago the grass in the yard behind me was starting to near the limitation as outlined within city ordinance. I knew the homeowner was an older single lady and decided maybe she was not up to the task or was having mower issues.
Before just address the problem, I decided to contact her, as I was aware of others helping her in the past, which lead to issues between the two families. I went to her front door and her nephew, who was in his mid twenties, greeted me. He said he was aware of the issues and would take care of it. Two weeks past and the back yard had just grown taller, so I went to ask what the issue was being I had been told it would be taken care of. When I went around the block, I was surprised to find the front yard mowed.
At the front door I was greeted by the same nephew and received the same speech that he would get things taken care of. I allowed an additional week to pass before contacting codes enforcement, but again a week went by and still no one had addressed the grass issue. I then contacted codes and made sure I asked about the issues and my growing frustration with the neighbor and codes. Codes took the position that this was the first time they had heard about the issues, but would be checking into it and someone would tend to the yard.
More then a week past and the grass was now around three feet tall. I had enough and decided the only way the problem was ever going to get solved was from intervention from an Alderman. I knew that Greg Walters had a reputation as the go to guy when city hall wouldn’t tend to duties that they should be on top off. I called his home and actually spoke with his wife who shared my concerns and took the information as Greg was out. She ensured me Greg would look into it and something would be done. At this point I was a bit skeptic as to the lack of action I had experienced from those connected to city hall. However, it was only a mater of days later that I noticed the yard was finally mowed and keep mowed for the season.
It should be noted that the high grass in the back yard is now an annual game played by the new owners, which just happen to be the former owner’s family. It seems that until they are contacted by the city at least once a year that they don’t have to follow the same rules as the rest of us.
I for the longest time believe this was the exemption to the rule, but from talking with others it seems many of Raytown property owners share my neighbors view that it is their property to maintain as and when they want. It seems the city is well aware of these address based on the number of annual violations reported and the lack of attention to address the issues.
Lacking Supervision… By Richard Tush
I just heard that there have been several complaints about properties on Woodson Road in Ward 4 that codes finally made a physical review. However, a short time after their review and notifications they noticed a truck in the general area of the properties with a mower in the back. With this it was decided to mark the complaint as in compliance and move on to other issues. The odd thing was the yards didn’t get mowed.
I and others in the general area are in agreement had the issue been a mower left in the front yard that now seeing it in the back of a truck would mean the issue was addressed. However, when the issue is grass grown to a height longer then what is allowed by ordinance the violation would remain until the lawn was actually mowed. To many this seems simple enough and we can only hope our code enforcement officer too see the error in their prior judgement.
Speaking of poor judgement by someone from neighborhood service! This past weekend I received a call from a homeowner who found the dogcatcher waiting for them on Friday after walking their dog. The dogcatcher stated that someone within the area had complained that this individual’s dogs had used the complainants yard as their personal restroom. The homeowner explained that they have had prior conversations about the dogs, but ensured the officer that at no time had the dogs misused the yard. To be a good neighbor and do the right thing, they suggested they would start walking the dog on other streets, as it was apparent the neighbor was looking for something to complain about.
The officer agree that would be a good idea, but then went on to inform the homeowner that if the neighbor complained again the city would be forced to write a summons for the action of the dogs even if it was not the homeowners dogs.
The question presented to me by the homeowner was one does this type of comment in line with the code of ethics are city now has and when did our city start DNA testing on the dropping we all find from time to time in our yards. As with out the DNA how could they ensure proper identification? I laughed and agreed it sounds like another city employee has stepped into something that is actually going to get them in the doo and not the unidentified doo dog.
If the Department Head, Beth Linn, would take the time to work one on one with those on the streets reporting to her neither of the two issues would have resulted. It is apparent that this department not only has issues identify violations, but also their interpersonal skills and conduct when dealing with the public.
Bowen Plaza Café
One of Raytown best kept secrets is a new restaurant at named the BowenPlaza Café in the Bowen Apartments building at 6140 Raytown Road.
The restaurant, located on the ground level floor of the 12 story building offers a complete breakfast menu and a light lunch menu. Janice Osborn, manager of the Apartment Complex and the Café tells us that the average breakfast bill usually comes to about three to four dollars. The breakfast and lunch menus offer a wide variety of an all American diet.
This is not a franchise operation. All the menu items are served fresh and prepared while you wait.
The well lit and spacious ground level area of the Bowen Apartments has been tastefully remodeled giving the patron a comfortable and welcome feeling that makes you want to linger for a second cup of coffee.
"We wanted to offer our tenants a little more for their rent dollars," said Ms. Osborn, General Manager of Bowen Apartments. "Then we decided why not open it up to the public as well."
The Bowen Plaza Cafe can be entered through the rear of the Bowen Apartments located at 6140 Raytown Road. Parking is available in both the front and rear of the building.
What Our Readers Thought…
Last week we ask what should the school district do to address the short fall they are facing as a result of reduced property values? Our readers indicated 82% want to cut the spending with a 39% subset of that group also wishing to reducing services. It is clear that this is not a time for a mill level increase and we only hope those on the School Board as well as the Board of Alderman understand this.
To ensure these two boards understand your position, we encourage you to contract your elected officials and attend the corresponding meetings.
Fix This Eyesore…
DAY 78 – 84th Street Sanitary Sewer Project: The mess left behind by the city after sanitary sewer improvements remain
Day 78 - Time to Get Serious About Cleaning up Raytown: The proliferation of large trucks using our city as a parking lot. It is especially noticeable along 350 Highway.
Day 78 – Green Space: The grass areas that were damaged by the chamber event still remain unrepaired. At a BOA meeting prior to the SummerFest event Alderman Charlotte Melson said the Chamber would repair damage to the grass.
Day 64 – Minor Smith Park: The mess left behind by the city after sanitary sewer improvements remain.
Day 57 – Crescent Creek: Wires still dangle from the pole.
Day 50 – Former Religious Store: Allowed to decay. (Odd, but the real estate sign has disappeared)
Day 29 – The burned home at 8510 Stark: Remains a nuisance to the neighborhood
Local Meetings and Events:
Aug 28th – Municipal Committee meeting 6:00 PM at city hall
This meeting is to increase the taxes on our homes, cars, trucks, boats...
Aug 31st – Board of Education Tax Rate Hearing Meeting 6:00 PM at school district office
This meeting is to increase the taxes on our homes, cars, trucks, boats...
Sept 1st – Board of Alderman meeting 7:00 PM at city hall
Sept 3rd – Planning & Zoning Commission meeting 7:00 PM at city hall
Note: call the day of the meeting to make sure it has not be canceled due to no items being brought before the commission.