Posts tagged with Property Maintenance Code

Lawrence restaurant selected for national breakfast test; questions emerge about what you can store in your yard; cell tower awaiting approval

Any test that involves breakfast, I’m game for. After all, my most frequent classroom in college was the cafeteria, and my majors were biscuits and gravy, bacon and elastic waistbands. All this is to say that Lawrence is among a handful of cities where McDonald’s is testing the concept of all-day breakfast menus.

Patrick Manning, a spokesman for the local McDonald’s franchise, said the test began last week and likely will last into September.

“The students obviously get back around Aug. 1, and we think it is going to be very popular with them,” Manning said.

McDonald's this spring began testing the concept in San Diego. Manning said the Lawrence franchise shortly thereafter sought corporate approval to run a test here. The exact number of markets that are being allowed to test the all-day breakfast menu hasn’t been released, but Manning described it as only a “handful” of cities across the country. He said Lawrence is the only one in the Kansas City region.

Traditionally, most McDonald’s restaurants serve breakfast from 4 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., although the Lawrence franchise several years ago received corporate approval to serve until 11:30 a.m.

“People love breakfast in Lawrence,” Manning said. “The test is off to a great start.”

The all-day menu is a bit smaller than the morning breakfast menu. Right now it includes primarily breakfast burritos, hotcakes, egg McMuffins and similar breakfast sandwiches.

In other news and notes from around town:

• Let’s get caught up on some City Hall happenings. Commissioners met from 3 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. on Tuesday, which produced more discussion than I was able to fit into the next day’s article. So, here’s a look at some other City Hall items.

— We saw the power of green on Tuesday night. As I previously reported, commissioners had an item related to potential code violations at 1145 Pennsylvania St. The site is the home of Cosmic Beauty School, which practices urban farming and promotes sustainability. As part of that business, it has some exterior storage, which has drawn a complaint from at least one neighbor. City inspectors have said the storage is in violation of the city’s property maintenance code.

Commissioners were receiving an update on the property at their Tuesday meeting, and they also received an earful from fans of urban farming and sustainability. It became clear on Tuesday that commissioners weren’t going to take any action that made them look like they weren’t in full support of such issues.

But how commissioners distanced themselves from the issue has brought up questions about whether enforcement of the city’s property maintenance code is on shaky ground.

Here are some photos the city has taken of the property. It certainly does not rank among the worst offenders of the property maintenance code in the city. But you will notice that there is a pile of bricks in what essentially is the front yard of the business. Actually, the bricks are on the city’s right-of-way. They’re very near the street. If you run your car into them, they have become a new type of traffic-calming device. There’s also wood pallets stacked in the right of way, and those big white structures are tanks to catch rainwater.

Commissioners looked at those pictures and received the report from their enforcement staff. Here’s the key reaction:

“I think we have lots of time on our hands if we are going after people with piles of pallets and bricks in their yard,” Commissioner Matthew Herbert told staff members, to the cheers of those in the audience.

The other four commissioners really didn’t say anything to bring any element of moderation to those comments. So, that has left some interesting questions. Is it just old bricks and pallets that I can store in my front yard, or is it any type of construction material? How about old shingles off my roof or piles of lumber that I’m sure I’ll get around to using at some point? Do I have to stack it neatly or can I use my preferred organizational method, which recognizes the power of randomly shaped piles? Can my pile only take up 5 percent of my front yard or can it take up 50 percent of my front yard? And, I’m assuming, there’s no problem here if my yard happens to be in a neighborhood surrounded by homes that are $400,000 or $500,000 in West Lawrence.

I understand the unique nature of the business at 1145 Pennsylvania St. Folks who are serious about running an urban farm are going to have nontraditional items in their yard. Staff noted piles of tomato cages and a couple of hay bales. There was a brief discussion about whether the city needs to add some provisions to its code book that address urban farming. But Herbert’s comments seemed to be of a different nature. They left staff members wondering whether the City Commission wants certain parts of the property maintenance code enforced anywhere.

“We would appreciate having a discussion about the property maintenance code in the future because staff is trying to enforce what is written today,” said Interim City Manager Diane Stoddard.

It should be an interesting debate. I’m sure there are differences of opinion about what constitutes proper aesthetics in a yard, but I’ve also heard others talk about how piles of wood are fire hazards, piles of bricks are environments for rodents, and how piles of material stacked up right against a street are a danger to motorists. I’ve also heard people say the city’s property maintenance code is so broad that basically everyone is technically in violation of it at some point.

Commissioners directed staff to hold in abeyance any enforcement measures against the property owners until the city has had a chance to have such a discussion about the property maintenance code.

– Commissioners also had on their agenda a discussion about a new roundabout proposed for Wakarusa and Harvard in West Lawrence. Commissioners, though, deferred that discussion because it became apparent the meeting already was going to be extremely long. Look for that discussion to take place at the July 7 City Commission meeting.

– If you are interested in the future of a new wireless phone tower in East Lawrence, mark your calendars for the July 14 City Commission meeting. That is the tentative date that commissioners will consider a request from Verizon Wireless to build a 120-foot tower on property near the Ottawa Co-op grain elevators. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission recommended approval of the plans. Neighbors previously had objected to a different set of plans that called for a cell tower at 1725 Bullene Ave. The City Commission rejected those plans, and Verizon has sued the city over that rejection. Whether approval of these new tower plans makes that lawsuit go away is unclear, but it might. The new 120-foot tower would be about 400 feet away from the grain elevator, which is about 130 feet tall.

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Bedbugs on the radar screen of city officials; new ordinance would allow City Hall to create rules to exterminate pests

And here you thought property maintenance just meant keeping the grass mowed, the house painted, the roof shingled, and other such matters.

Well, add one more item to the chore list: Controlling bedbugs.

City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday are scheduled to approve a new ordinance that will get the ball rolling on creating regulations to control bedbug infestations in the city.

Commissioners are creating a new “Property Maintenance Code.” Most of the code provisions are just a rewrite and combination of two different sections that existed in the city’s building permit codes and in the city’s general code book.

But the city doesn’t have much on the books in terms of how property owners must treat bedbug infestations. The new code doesn’t create a specific set of requirements, but rather gives the city’s director of planning and development services the authority to create specific regulations on how bedbugs should be dealt with.

Lawrence has had some issues with the pests, which frequently live in mattresses or clothes and create health risks by biting and sucking the blood of their victims.

We reported in 2010 a spike in the number of bedbug complaints in the city. That was about the time that bedbug infestations were starting to get publicity in other parts of the country as well.

In a memo to commissioners, city staff members argue that the city should get involved with the regulation of bedbug extermination because the pests can quickly grow into a citywide problem. The pests can embed themselves in clothing, mattresses or furniture that may be moved from one residence to another.

Lawrence may be at particular risk for bedbug infestations because of the number of students who move in and out of the community or who travel home and unknowingly may bring the bedbugs back with them. Our 2010 article noted that KU officials had spent some time talking with students about the risks of bedbugs, and how to prevent their spread.

I’m not sure what the situation is today with the number of bedbug cases in the city, but I’ll check with the proper officials and report back.

I suspect people who have had bedbug infestations will appreciate the city getting involved in the issue. According to the last article we wrote, it sounds like figuring out how to get rid of the pests can be confusing. It also sounds like it can be expensive. Back in 2010, one exterminator estimated that a typical heat treatment — a process where the infested area is heated to about 130 degrees — would cost more than $500.

While reading through the code about bedbugs, I also found several other items of note about what the city requires in terms of property maintenance. I don’t think any of these are really new requirements, but under the new code, they may become easier to enforce. Here’s a look at a few:

• Here’s the list of no-no’s that you should not allow to accumulate in your yard or on your porch or deck: lumber, wire, metal, tires, concrete, masonry products, plastic products, supplies, equipment, machinery, auto parts, stoves, refrigerators, televisions, sinks, garbage, refuse, junk, or the like.

• No person shall allow in their yard a dead or substantially dead tree.

• Water from a sump pump shall not be discharged at a point closer than five feet from any adjoining property line.

• Essentially every window used to ventilate a room should have an insect screen.

• “Leaning, buckling, sagging or deteriorating” fences shall be repaired. Any fence that was painted and now has “chipping, peeling, scaling or missing paint” on at least 20 percent of its area shall be repainted or stripped and given a water-resistant coating.

• It is against the code to put out your city-issued trash cart before 7 a.m. the day before your scheduled trash day. It also is against the code to leave your trash cart out at the curb for longer than 24 hours after your trash has been picked up.

• It is legal to store your city trash cart outside your house or garage, but the code says it should be stored no farther than three feet from the exterior wall of your house or shed. In other words, storing it in the middle of your yard would be a violation.

One thing that this new code isn't expected to change is that most of these property maintenance code violation matters are dealt with on a complaint bases. In other words, the city doesn't send out inspectors to search for such violation, as a general rule. The city also has taken an approach of trying to get property owners to simply remedy the violation rather than writing an actual ticket. But the code does allow for Municipal Court fines for $100 to $500 for violations of the code.

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