Denison residents got a look at the city’s efforts to beautify and revitalize neighborhoods throughout the city Thursday night. The city held a quarterly town hall meeting Thursday with a focus on neighborhood revitalization and efforts to remove blight and decay from residential neighborhoods.
Thursday’s presentations included talks by code enforcement and other city officials on department duties along with new programs aimed at encouraging growth in the community.
“It is really to say what code compliance does,” Denison Director of Community Engagement Sunny Mackey said. “What are minimum property standards. Just different things that are involved in the effort to revitalize.”
Code Compliance Manager Robert Lay said in 2016 his department had covered 4,900 code compliance cases. This number grew to 7,000 cases last year. Common enforcement issues include improper parking, including junked cars parked in yards, and tall grass violations.
“Our goal always is to see code violations corrected,” Lay said. “That is what is going to help our neighborhoods — to see that blight removed.”
Among one of the duties for code enforcement is maintaining minimum property standards throughout the city. Lay said that includes keeping structures painted, removing rotten wood and other maintenance issues.
“If there is one tool that code compliance has that makes the biggest impact in revitalizing neighborhoods, it is minimum property standards,” he said.
The city first set its minimum property standards in 2012 and the department has since seen 745 cases. Currently, it has 102 open cases active.
For the program, the city has maintained focus area, including rotating yearly areas, major corridors and neighborhoods near parks and schools.
Another tool available for code enforcement is the demolition and removal of blighted properties that are beyond the point of revitalization. Since 2010, the city has removed 450 unsafe homes from the city, and 60 new houses have been built in their place.
In addition to code enforcement, city officials gave an update on another program aimed at ensuring quality rental properties. Denison Director of Development and Community Services Kimberly Murray spoke on the city’s proposed rental inspection program.
The city first contemplated a program for rental inspections in 2015 following recommendations from its housing task force. The first iteration allowed for city inspections of rental properties by request.
In early 2019, city officials unveiled plans to start a mandatory program for the city’s rental properties, which make up 38 percent of Denison’s housing stock. However, following a public meeting and other input, the city unveiled a new program that would allow for voluntary inspections. In exchange, the city will offer incentives and perks to property owners who participate.
City officials currently expect that the program will launch on May 1.
Breaking away from the focus of the meeting, City Manager Jud Rex attempted to address concerns regarding recent action by council regarding billing to insurance companies for the services of the fire department in the event of an emergency. Rex said the council will consider a clarified version of the ordinance Tuesday night that will clarify some of the questions that were raised by the previous version.