By Casey Crowley

The Baker City Council is one step away from approving an ordinance intended to give the city, and the Baker Justice Court judge, more authority to deal with properties where trash piles up.

Councilors passed the second of three readings of the chronic neighborhood nuisance ordinance Tuesday.

The council probably will do the third and final reading at its next meeting, set for March 12.

A group of residents from an east Baker City neighborhood have urged councilors to pass the new ordinance, which could result in the Justice Court blocking access to a property, including by the owner, until the property is cleaned up.

The residents were prompted by the property at 1975 Birch St. The city has twice paid to remove trash from the property.

The ordinance adds the word “chronic” to the phrase “neighborhood nuisance” and adds a number of items to the definition of a chronic nuisance.

Those items are: accumulation of rubbish and waste, whether the property has adequate water and sanitary service, whether the property has been judged to be abated or has a tax lien imposed on it, and if the resident has an y prior convictions from violating the city’s property maintenance ordinance.

If the Justice Court judge deems a property a chronic neighborhood nuisance, access to the property could be blocked until the issue has been dealt with and any fees or fines paid.

The judge could allow the property owner to continue to use the property if the owner agrees to try to remedy the situation or pay fines.

Christopher Christie of Baker City, who has been the only vocal opponent of the proposed ordinance, submitted written comments prior to the meeting and read them aloud during the citizens’ participation portion of Tuesday’s meeting.

“Since Council has been working on the ordinance it has been transformed into probably the most extreme chronic nuisance ordinance in the state, if not the nation,” Christie said “Now, instead of three strikes you’re out for six months, it’s potentially one strike and you could be out forever, if you don’t have the money to pay the fines and fees.”

Christie contends that some of the items the city removed from the property at 1975 Birch St. had value.

“To protect the property rights of Baker City citizens, I think that the Council needs to create a legal procedure that documents what occurs when a property is abated, including an inventory of the property taken,” he said.

Carmen Ott, as one of the neighbors of the Birch Street property and a proponent of the ordinance, said she doesn’t believe it would be feasible to do an inventory of what the city removed from that property.

Christie said he believes the ordinance gives the Justice Court judge too much flexibility to decide what constitutes adequate water and sewer service.

“In conclusion, I believe this ordinance may violate the due process and equal protection rights of some citizens, especially the poor, disabled, or otherwise troubled citizens of Baker City,” Christie said.

See more in the Feb. 27, 2019, issue of the Baker City Herald.