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LaGrange approves fine for owners of disorderly houses

At its meeting on Tuesday night, the LaGrange City Council unanimously approved an amendment to its disorderly house ordinance which allows the city to fine property owners.

Under the existing ordinance, disorderly house is defined as one “where noisy or riotous persons assemble to the common annoyance and disturbance of citizens in the neighborhood.”

With the amendment, owners of such properties, not just residents, can be cited and fined $500.

A written notice must first be provided before a fine is issued. Each violation of the ordinance can result in an additional fine.

Council Member Nathan Gaskin helped bring the amendment about, with the hope that landlords, instead of the police department, would control unruly tenants.

“The whole purpose was to push it down toward it being a civil matter … the owner of the property has some skin in the game,” Gaskin said at the council’s work session Tuesday morning.

The council also held a first reading of an ordinance that would amend the regulations concerning curb cuts and driveways when the city does work on right-of-ways.

Currently, the city ordinance does not address this issue, however the city’s practice is to repair portions of curb cuts or driveways to their previous condition, if they are disturbed because of city work.

Work on the right-of-way may include repairing underground utility infrastructure or building a sidewalk, for instance.

The issue came up in July when residents of Gordon Street opposed a proposal to build a sidewalk, partially on the grounds that the sidewalk would interfere with an expensive driveway enhancement that was being added by a homeowner.

The council ultimately rejected the request to build the sidewalk, but if they had not, the city would have had to decide whether or not to repair the new driveway.

City Attorney Jeff Todd came up with an amendment that would specify when the city is required to repair driveways that cross the city right-of-way.

“You suggested that we prepare language which strikes somewhat of a balance in between the two extremes (the owner paying for all repairs versus the city paying for all repairs),” Todd wrote in an email to City Manager Meg Kelsey that was provided to The LaGrange Daily News.

Under the proposed amendment, the city would “repair or replace any driveway damaged or required to be relocated due to a city road or utility maintenance issue; however, the obligation of the city shall be limited to a driveway meeting the minimum customary specifications required by applicable regulations, and will not include replacement or repair of upgrades or other hardscape or landscaping which has been constructed within the right-of-way by the property owner.”

In other words, the city would repair a driveway to the level of a basic concrete or asphalt driveway but not beyond that.

“Whether it’s a requirement or not, historically speaking, the city puts it back the way we found it. And that’s always worked when people had asphalt driveways and zoysia sod,” LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said at the work session. “But if someone’s going to build … bluestone pavers and Italian marble and all that sort of thing, the city can’t be expected to build something to that standard.”

Finally, the council passed a resolution authorizing the mayor and clerk to execute a lease agreement with American Capital Financial Services.

The agreement, Kelsey said, allows the city to purchase hardware and software for information technology purposes, saving $80,000 over a three-year period.