[StBernard] St. Bernard starts fines against blighted property

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Feb 20 23:05:51 EST 2007

St. Bernard starts fines against blighted property
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
By Karen Turni Bazile

St. Bernard Parish has started fining property owners who haven't cut their
grass or secured their Katrina-damaged properties.

The Parish Council recently approved an emergency ordinance fining property
owners $100 a day. The council is scheduled to conduct a public hearing and
vote on making the law permanent during its Thursday night meeting in
Chalmette. Fines mount daily until the property is cleaned or the fines
exceed the property's assessed value and the parish seizes it.

Parish Chief Administrative Officer Dave Peralta said the parish will list
the properties on the parish Web site at www.sbpg.net later this week so
owners can see them before the parish files liens against neglected
properties. Liens will be filed in increments of $1,000.

"I haven't had anybody complain to me," Peralta said. "Every person who came
to me said they applauded the effort. They want to see it happen."

Although a five-person team of compliance officers has fanned out across the
parish, Peralta said the parish is also focusing on complaints by residents
living near neglected properties.

Councilman Craig Taffaro sponsored the measure as an amendment to the law
the council approved last summer that set an Aug. 29, 2006, deadline for
gutting and securing properties.

The law allows the parish to forgive fines once owners have verified the
work is done and they keep the property maintained.

"The point is if the properties are taken care of, the government isn't
interested in taking people's money or in taking individuals' property,"
Taffaro said. "People who absolutely refuse to do that: Those are the
properties that will wind up feeling the teeth of the ordinance."

One neighborhood group, Rediscover District C, is compiling a list of
properties in violation to turn over to the parish, said Howard Luna, who
heads the group.

Because the group wants to give returning residents a chance to clean up and
focus on abandoned properties, Luna said anyone returning to the parish
should register with the group's Web site at www.rediscoverdistrictc.com

"It's important because we want to keep the people who are here already. It
would be a travesty to lose anyone who has returned but has become
frustrated by what is happening," Luna said.

To file a complaint, call (504) 278-4225 or visit Peralta's office at 8201
W. Judge Perez Drive in Chalmette.

. . . . . . .

Karen Turni Bazile can be reached at kturni at timespicayune.com or (504)

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