Phoenix looks at chronic nuisance ordinance

Damage awards of up to $10,000 and loss of property use for a year could result from violations of a proposed chronic nuisance ordinance Phoenix City Council will consider Monday, June 4.

A public hearing and a second reading of the measure will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Public Works Building, 1000 S. B St.

Neighbors on Orchard Place urged the council to develop the measure due to a residence there that has attracted many visitors. They say police have responded but current city regulations limited their ability to control activities.

“Our situation is extreme. With the police department assistance, we have been able to put a dent in some of what is happening,” said Orchard Place resident Tammy Cordonier at a May 7 City Council session. “In the last seven months, our cul-de-sac has been under siege.”

Cordonier estimated that 80 to 90 calls have been made to police. She said convicted criminals frequent the site, and drug needles are left on the ground.

Under a chronic nuisance ordinance, a local government may hold property owners or those in charge accountable for adverse conditions and activities that occur repeatedly. Failure to correct a situation can result in civil penalties.

“It’s always beneficial to us when we can actually take a document that says here is what is going to happen if you are not going to change this behavior,” Phoenix Police Chief Derek Bowker told the council May 21. Most people will look at it and read it and stop the behavior, he said.

The proposed ordinance would have helped with a chronic nuisance situation in the past, Bowker said, but he declined to speculate how it might apply if there are complaints about the Orchard Place residence. Many cases can be remedied just by making individuals aware there is a problem, said Bowker.

Orchard Place residents met in early March with City Attorney Doug McGeary, Bowker, Lt. Jeff Price and Interim City Manager Dave Kanner to discuss the situation.

Current regulations lack teeth, Cordonier said at the May 7 session where council discussed a draft ordinance and directed McGeary to incorporate some changes. Council passed a first reading of the measure May 21.

The ordinance uses abatement language from Oregon Revised Statues and adds references to Phoenix Municipal Code.

Reports of violations would be put together by police and reviewed by the city attorney before going to the municipal court. Provisions allow for citizens as well as the city to file for damages and to seek abatement or injunctions to stop activities.

Nuisance activities covered under health and safety would include dangerous and derelict structures, camping, fire issues and wood heating. Offenses covered by public peace, morals and welfare provisions include disturbing public peace, public indecency, violations against minors and weapons.

A chronic property nuisance can be declared if three or more nuisance activities occur in 30 days, four or more in 120 days or six during a year. In addition, a property where fruits of a crime are found after execution of a probable cause warrant can also be declared a nuisance.

Convicted violators could seek a stay through a dollar amount guaranteed by a letter of credit to the plaintiff. Failure to follow through on a judgment could result in jail time.

Abatement can be suspended if a property owner had no knowledge of the nuisance or has been making efforts to end it and will make immediate efforts to prevent further occurrences.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at

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