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Janesville City Council holding five public hearings Monday

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Jake Magee
Saturday, August 12, 2017

JANESVILLEThe city council on Monday will hold five public hearings and might take action on several proposed ordinances or ordinance changes.

The public hearings focus on several quality-of-life issues: gardening and landscaping, nuisance properties, registration of vacant buildings, parking trucks in residential areas, and on-street parking of large vehicles.

GARDENING AND LANDSCAPING

Current city ordinances prohibit residents from planting vegetables in their front yards or landscaping more than 100 square feet without a city permit.

Under proposed changes, residents could plant vegetables in up to half of their front lawns and landscape up to half of their front and side yards and 75 percent of their backyards. Compost bins and piles would be restricted to backyards.

The proposed changes come with height restrictions in setbacks so drivers and pedestrians can still see vehicles. The changes wouldn't alter restrictions and penalties for neglected yards and noxious weeds.

CHRONIC NUISANCE AND VACANT PROPERTIES

The city is proposing changes to its chronic nuisance ordinance as well as a new ordinance for vacant properties.

Certain events at a property, such as arrests or zoning violations reported to the city, count as "actions" against the property. If a property reaches four violations in a year, it's considered a chronic nuisance. City staff then meets with the property owner to come up with an abatement plan to fix the problems.

Proposed changes to the ordinance would classify homicides, recklessly endangering safety, prohibited possession of a firearm, probation or parole violations, human trafficking and unsafe burning violations as chronic nuisance violations.

The changes also would allow police to warn property owners when they reach two violations and cite them if they violate their abatement plans.

The new proposed ordinance would require owners of vacant properties to register them with the city. Fees would be included to encourage owners to either ready the properties for occupancy or sell them so they don't remain vacant.

About 1,441 of the city's 27,140 housing units are vacant. About 309 commercial properties also are partially or fully vacant, according to a city analysis.

Abandoned properties are blights on neighborhoods, drop market values for surrounding properties, require a higher level of city services and endanger public safety, according to a city memo to the council.

HEAVY VEHICLE PARKING

Current ordinances restrict vehicles heavier than 8,000 pounds from parking in residential neighborhoods.

The ordinances exist to maintain neighborhoods' "residential character," according to a memo.

The proposed changes would increase the weight limit to 12,000 pounds and allow larger residential vehicles to park in neighborhoods.

A growing number of heavy vehicles now fit the aesthetic of a neighborhood but are heavier than the ordinance allows, according to the memo.



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