County reviewing nuisance law

Published 3:03 pm Friday, February 27, 2009

On Tuesday, Decatur County Commissioners held a second public hearing on a proposed nuisance ordinance that contains rules intended to prohibit loud noise, litter, eyesore properties and health hazards.

The ordinance’s stated purpose is “to encourage a clean, healthy and satisfying environment; one free of nuisances, eyesores and unhealthy, unsafe or devaluating conditions.”

Free copies of the proposed ordinance’s second draft, dated Feb. 19, are available at the County Administration Building, located at 203 W. Broughton St., or online at

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The ordinance applies to all unincorporated areas of Decatur County and could apply within its municipalities, provided they approve the ordinance. An exception is “that any section of the ordinance that has a counterpart in an ordinance of the city shall not be enforced by the County in said city.”

The City of Bainbridge has ordinances that already address some of the nuisances found in the county’s proposed ordinance, including overgrown lawns, storage of non-operating vehicles, loud noise, unsafe buildings and improper disposal of garbage.

The proposed ordinance defines a nuisance as “anything that causes hurt, inconvenience, or damage to another, and the fact that the act done may otherwise be lawful, shall not keep it from being a nuisance. The inconvenience complained of shall not be fanciful, or such as would affect only one of fastidious taste, but it shall be as such as would affect [the] general public.”

Example nuisances

Example nuisances listed in the latest draft of the ordinance include, but are not limited to: weeds, grass or other wild-growing plants allowed to grow or accumulate to a height of 12 inches or greater; accumulation of standing water and junk materials; long-term outdoor storage of abandoned vehicles or mobile homes; buildings which are unsafe to live in or otherwise present a public hazard, except certain farm buildings; unsecured openings such as well pits; loud or bothersome noises, and the emission of disagreeable odors, except noises and odors emanating from existing farm lands; smoke emanating from the burning of nonorganic materials or any other fires prohibited by state law; pollution of waterways; any structure or place where any illegal activity is conducted; and any illegal method of human excrement disposal.

Proposed enforcement procedures

Whenever nuisances are found within the county’s jurisdiction, the county’s code enforcement officer would issue a written warning to the owner or occupant of the property where a nuisance exists, or to the person causing the nuisance, to abate the nuisance. If the nuisance is not abated, the county government could file an action in Magistrate Court to abate the nuisance.

A nuisance warning could be appealed by the owner or occupant within 10 days by filing a written request with the Magistrate Court.

Less serious infractions could be punished by fines of up to $100 for a first violation, up to $200 for a second violation within one year, and up to $500 for each additional violation within one year.

The penalties and fines would be paid to the County Planning Department, unless the violation was appealed and decided to and by the Magistrate Court or other courts.

Any person found guilty of violations considered to be misdemeanors under the ordinance could be fined up to $1,000 per each day the nuisance is committed, continued or permitted. Citing state law, the proposed ordinance states a misdemeanor offense would occur if a person should fail to abate a nuisance that tends to annoy the community, injure the health of citizens in general or corrupt the public morals.

The ordinance also outlines fees that would be incurred if county employees had to abate nuisances involving illegal trash dumping on road rights of way and/or public property, or if the county had to abate or remediate a nuisance itself.