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Midvale group seeking ‘fit premises ordinance’

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MIDVALE — Is the city deteriorating? Some residents think it is.

They've formed an advocacy group to elect officials who would create an ordinance to get rid of dilapidated roofs, personal junk yards and unfit structures.

Citizens for a Clean and Safe Midvale, founded by resident Jon Tyson, is seeking volunteers in each of Midvale's five districts to fight for a "fit premises ordinance" and municipal government candidates who would support it.

The ordinance would be a catch-all law for anything not covered by building, health, safety and fire codes, according to the group's news release.

Tyson, who has lived in Midvale for about a year, says his neighbor has a garage roof covered in plastic, four inoperable vehicles in front of his house and a personal junk yard in back. He said the city's building inspector has been to the house but found the garage doesn't violate any codes.

Midvale Mayor JoAnn Seghini says because the garage is not a living space, it isn't under the same jurisdiction as the rest of the house. She said unless a home is full of junk and causes a nuisance, such as attracting rats or other vermin, the city won't take action.

"We couldn't require the man to reroof his house if he doesn't have the money," she said.

However, she said volunteer groups in the city often clean homes and yards for elderly and disabled people.

Tyson said there's no reason the garage should remain in its state of dilapidation because the owner seems fit enough to do the job.

"The majority of homes in Midvale-Fort Union would pass the fit premise law with flying colors," he wrote in the release. "It only takes one or two homes on a block to infect the entire neighborhood."

Seghini said current ordinances allow the city to cite people for derelict cars or excessive weeds — things that could become health hazards. But it takes time to get those things taken care of, she said. The city has to give a citation, then wait for the offender to respond, then go to court.

Tyson maintains the problem is deeper than that.

But Seghini says the system has become more efficient at removing inoperable cars and cleaning up neighborhoods. The problems, she says, are with some absentee landlords in certain high-density housing areas who merely want the rent but don't fix up their properties.

Salt Lake City has had a fit premises ordinance since 1992. It requires property owners and renters to act in good faith toward one another and make repairs as soon as possible. But it only applies to the landlord-tenant relationship. Nothing in the ordinance requires homeowners to make repairs.

E-MAIL: jdougherty@desnews.com