Spokane Valley ordinances address dangers of nuisance homes

Spokane Valley ordinances address dangers of nuisance homes

Changes proposed for the City of Spokane Valley could help clean up neighborhoods and make them safer. The council will consider two ordinances aimed at dealing with some of the worst nuisance homes in town.

Spokane Valley City Attorney Cary Driskell said in the past, the city adopted a set of regulations for most of the nuisance homes, but through the years, there have been gaps in the city’s ability to address some properties.

“The ones that we have not been able to adequately address in the past are one where there are significant levels of criminal activity,” Driskell said.

Deputy City Attorney Erik Lamb noted these homes have a significant impact across the community.

“It’s like when you drop a rock in a pond and you have this circle, the ripple effect outward, and ultimately the strongest ripples are at the center and it goes all the way to the edge of the pond,” Lamb said. “You see these impacts from these properties going blocks and blocks out from the property, so that’s why, despite the low number [of cases], there is still a really significant impact on the neighborhoods.”

Spokane Valley resident Deanna Almeida can attest to that. She’s lived in her home for more than 23 years and said the “nice, quiet neighborhood” took a turn a few years ago, when she got a new neighbor.

“People were coming and going at all times of the day, usually at night,” Almeida said.

She described trash piled up and an awful smell coming from the home, when she believes the tenants were burning things inside.

“Allegedly, they were pulling down cabinets and cupboards and burning them. They would burn garbage. The whole garage was filled with garbage,” Almeida said.

Once, Almeida said she found an extension cord running from their home to hers.

“They stole my power. It was pretty bad,” Almeida said.

She said despite frequent calls from her and other neighbors, it took authorities at least a year to shut the house down.

According to a city report, the home was seized in 2016 after being deemed uninhabitable with multiple code enforcement cases.

Someone new lives there now and is fixing up the home, according to Almeida. City attorney point to this home as one that would’ve been dealt with under the proposed ordinance, which may have meant a quicker response.

Driskel explained that the Chronic Nuisance Provision proposed would, in short, allow the city to ask for an order to take a property after five or more criminal complaints at that address in a year.

According to Driskel, the Unfit Dwelling Provision mirrors what is allowed in state law to deal with some fo the worst cases of nuisance homes. Under the ordinance, once legal action happens, the city would be able to recoup all the cost associated with cleaning up or demolishing the property. Current law only allows for the city to recover $2,000.

The Spokane City Council will review the proposals Tuesday night during their regular meeting. The public can offer comment. A vote on the ordinances is expected the following week.