The city of Denison held a public forum Tuesday night to provide information on the city’s property maintenance regulations and to receive feedback on those efforts. Tuesday’s meeting following efforts by the city in recent years to clean up derelict property and remove urban blight.
“For the past several years, it has been a high priority of the (city) council to clean up and rebuild our neighborhoods,” City Manager Jud Rex said.
Earlier this year, the city enacted several changes to its code enforcement policies aimed at speeding up the process. These policies included changes on how the city notifies owners and limitations on the extensions that are given for property standards violations.
The city also updated its notification policy for tall grass violations so that only one notification is needed per season. Previously, each subsequent violation would need its own notification, leading to delays before the city could intervene.
As a part of the meeting, city officials also gave an update on efforts to clean up portions of the city that have fallen into disrepair through lack of maintenance. Since 2014, the city has conducted more than 200 demolitions of structures that were deemed unsafe and a public hazard, Development Services Director Gabe Reaume said during Tuesday’s meeting.
The meeting was open for comment throughout, with residents asking questions ranging from who is responsible if a tree limb is hanging over a property to concerns about quarterly brush pick-up. Other residents brought up trouble spots that they felt the city should look into for code enforcement.
Richard Hunter, an agent for Ebby Halliday, asked what feedback the city has gotten from these efforts. Rex said many of these properties have since been redeveloped as a part of the city’s affordable housing program, which incentivizes the development of low-cost homes in existing neighborhoods.
Through the success of this and similar programs, Rex said the city has encouraged other property owners to independently update and restore their properties. Reaume added that redevelopment in these neighborhoods has also spurred calls about property standards for neighboring properties as owners become more aware of the issue.
Hunter said he has seen these improvements first hand through his work and the influx of new residents the area has seen recently.
“We’ve had more clients moving here from all over,” he said, noting he has spoken to buyers from North Dakota, California and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Hunter said he has seen this interest rise, and has heard some positive comments from prospective buyers who are looking to move. He said further proof of this growth can be seen in the 117 building permits the city has issued for single-family residences this year.
“Ten years ago, Grayson County had 65 building permits in one year,” he said. “There were times in Denison you would never see a construction truck.”
Michelle Holcomb said she attended Tuesday’s meeting as a way to get to know how the various departments within the city work. As a new employee and a long time resident of the city, she said she felt it was important to know how the various aspects of the city interact.
As a resident, Holcomb said she has noticed the changes that have taken place and feels it is a positive move for the city.
“I can see the improvements and how the city is moving to get cleaned up and more attractive,” she said.
For his part, Reaume said Wednesday that he felt the meeting was productive in that the city gained an outside perspective and feedback on its clean-up efforts.
“Our goal was to get feedback about property standards and code enforcement and continue ongoing discussions on how we can improve,” he said. “We had some complaints, and well deserved ones, that we will continue to work on.”
Reaume said one of the ideas he took from the meeting was about the city’s policy for brush removal. As part of the water bill, residents are allowed to dispose of a limited amount of brush each year. However, one homeowner said he had issues dumping debris he had collected for a disabled neighbor, who was unable to dump it himself.
“That’s something I never thought of and considered, and we will look to address that concern,” Reaume said.