The next time the city demolishes a structure using an emergency declaration, Councilman Fred Richardson wants members of the Mobile City Council to be notified. If he has his way, colleagues will send him off Nov. 1 with an amended ordinance making it the law.
Richardson asked council attorney Chris Arledge to draft the amendment to an ordinance dealing with emergency demolitions after the city clerk’s office received an email from Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office notifying councilors of an emergency action taken to remove a structure in District 1 at 331 Smith Street.
In the notice to Assistant City Clerk Mary Ann Merchant, David Daughenbaugh, deputy director of municipal enforcement, said the city took the structure down “due to imminent danger of structural collapse endangering adjoining property, the public right-of-way or human life or health.”
Richardson immediately questioned the need for the emergency action on a house he said had been standing for more than 40 years with a fence around it. In an email exchange with Arledge, Richardson said if anything had happened to pose an imminent threat, it should have been cited. Otherwise, Richardson said, the council should not be “negated.”
“They’ve got to notify us,” he said. “They can’t just send a letter. I just think it’s too much power.”
In an internal report, city inspectors noted they went to the property several times beginning in July and had started the initial nuisance abatement procedure. An owner from Los Angeles was notified, according to the report. The condition of the property worsened by the time another inspection took place earlier this month. At that time, the report noted the structure was in danger of collapsing across property lines and could lead to injury.
“Based on both independent inspections verifying the imminent danger of the collapse of the structure at 311 Smith Street posing a direct danger to adjoining property, and that the collapse will cross the adjacent property line that is a danger to human life or health, I executed the Emergency Declaration of Nuisance Property letter ordering the immediate demolition of the structure located at 331 Smith Street,” Daughenbaugh wrote in an email.
The demolition was bid out, Daughbaugh wrote, and the lowest bid of $3,350 was selected. The city will look to get reimbursed for that through the nuisance abatement process at a later date.
Richardson believes using an emergency declaration is a way to circumvent questions from councilors. He thinks councilors should be notified before the action is taken.
“You are ignoring this council, who were put in place to speak for the people,” he said.
To remedy the situation, Richardson’s amendment would require the city, under certain circumstances, to notify the council before an emergency action is taken.
Under the amendment, emergency action can’t be taken without prior approval of council if the “imminent danger” has persisted for more than 120 days prior to when a code official deems it an emergency, or if the property has been the subject of a citizen complaint or has been previously inspected by a code official.
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