Warsaw Works To Beat Blight

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Warsaw is the place to visit for tourists and weekenders who love outdoor sports, festivals and historical sites. In fact, the City received the Innovator Award at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism last fall for achieving great tourism results with a small budget. It is also a happy home to many residents who like the small town atmosphere and natural beauty of the area. City personnel take their responsibilities seriously, striving to provide professional, dependable, advanced services, so residents may enjoy life, work and recreation, while allowing visitors to enjoy the City’s heritage and quality of life. Part of that responsibility is fighting blight by enforcing City ordinances that promote public health, safety and welfare, such as Chapter 215: Nuisances Ordinance.
 The Purpose And Findings part of the ordinance states that “The City Council of the City of Warsaw, Missouri, finds that unkempt, unsafe, unsanitary and otherwise improperly maintained premises and structures, sidewalks and easements within the City of Warsaw, in addition to the obvious hazards which these conditions pose to the public health, safety and welfare, adversely affect the value, utility and habitability of property within the City as a whole and specifically cause substantial damage to adjoining and nearby property….”
The Nuisances ordinance also specifically defines some nuisances as those that might be attractive and dangerous to children like an abandoned well, ice boxes or refrigerators with doors and latches, shafts, basements or other excavations, abandoned or inoperative vehicles or other equipment. A nuisance could be overcrowding of a structure, abandonment or vacancy, or could be the keeping of livestock, fowl, exotic or zoo animals. It could also be the use of a building, house, room, or other structure or vehicle, maintained or used for the purpose of lewdness, assignation, or prostitution.
Warsaw City Mayor Eddie Simons said that the biggest issue in the city is not so much dangerous properties, but nuisance properties such as homes with a refrigerator or couch on the front porch, junk cars in the yard and unmowed lawns.
“There is an excess of nuisance properties in Warsaw,” said Jill Cobb, Warsaw Administrative Clerk who handles many of the nuisance letters that go out to residences that are in violation of the ordinance. “The majority of cases have to do with unlicensed vehicles, unmowed grass, junk and trash on the property.”
Cobb said that she sees junk in yards all during the year, but other nuisances such as unmowed grass begins in the spring. She says that some of the reasons behind these nuisances are due to elderly residents who can’t physically maintain their property, and the City works with them. There are also cases when owners die and no one wants to claim their property so it is abandoned and eventually becomes dilapidated.  
“Renters tend to have more problems with junk in the yard and unmowed lawns,” said Cobb. “When a letter goes out to them, their landlord also gets a copy. If someone gets a letter to mow and is later a repeat offender, the City will either hire someone or use a City crew to do the job, and the offender will be charged for the expense. Some people do not welcome you with open arms when they are told to take care of the nuisance, and there have been some cases that involved lawyers. It is in the best interest of individual home owners, neighborhoods and the City as a whole to maintain homes so that property values are not diminished, and businesses and visitors are attracted to our area.”
The term “blight” is often used to describe nuisances like graffiti, abandoned properties, litter, drug houses and other things that makes a city unappealing to live in, and, at its worse, dangerous. All 50 states have blight legislation, and some revitalization is taking place to fix a few problems. Abandoned factories are being made into sleek lofts, abandoned rail lines are now parks, and abandoned malls are now super-food stores. However, according to www.fastcompany.com, blighted and vacant properties across the country have increased by 50 percent over the last 15 years. And, it settles in smaller cities, rural areas, and places in the country where the population is shrinking.