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County streamlines blight reporting

by JOSH MCDONALD
Staff Reporter | November 23, 2021 2:17 PM

WALLACE — Several Shoshone County agencies met recently to discuss Shoshone County Ordinance 160, specifically concerning how they handle the reporting, investigating and decisions made on public nuisances — commonly referred to as blights.

Blight is a broad term, and can be anything from abandoned or decrepit structures, litter and garbage, overgrown weeds, non-running vehicles and a multitude of other things.

What they all boil down to, however, is that they are public nuisances — nuisances that can lower surrounding property values, negatively affect local economies and even increase crime.

Blight is illegal under several state statutes, but basically a blighted property is one that has been declared a public nuisance in accordance with a local housing, building, plumbing, fire or other related code or ordinance.

Shoshone County is no different, and has been working to combat neighborhood blight violations, but now they are refining their process — particularly how these blights can be publicly reported.

According to Shoshone County Prosecuting Attorney (SCPA) Keisha Oxendine, the process for reporting a blight has several steps that can be followed.

First, anyone who desires to file a complaint may do so by contacting Planning and Zoning, the Deputy Clerk of the BOCC or the Sheriff’s Office. Following their initial reporting, they must then fill out a form that essentially asks them to fully describe the issue they are complaining about factually, and submit photographs if possible (that had to be obtained without entering onto private property).

Once the complaint form is received, Planning and Zoning will review it for any potential P&Z-related code violations and then conduct a follow-up if necessary on any P&Z-related violations.

Once that process is complete, the complaint will be forwarded to the Prosecutor’s Office for review.

“We will determine what code violations including nuisance violations may exist, and if it alleges a potential violation and additional information is needed, we will request follow-up as needed from the appropriate department (P&Z, Sheriff’s Office, etc.),” Oxendine said. “If it involves an issue that needs follow-up from the Sheriff’s Office, we will contact them and request that an officer be assigned and they will evaluate the ability to do so based on their existing caseloads and resources.”

Shoshone County Planning and Zoning Administrator Dan Martinsen believes the current process might streamline efforts to help mitigate blights — which Martinsen doesn’t believe to be a growing issue, but an issue that could potentially grow with growth.

“I don’t think so,” Martinsen said when asked if blights were a big issue in Shoshone County. “We have seen a dramatic increase of new residents but only a few new blight type issues.”

The new process is one that he believes could help get them under control and even help people realize their situation before a complaint ever comes through.

“We (the SCPA, Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office, Board of County Commissioners) have been working on process and enforcement clarity,” Martinsen said. “Most folks don’t realize what’s a violation and what’s not; blight is particularly a subjective issue. What is considered blight to one may not be to another. Many times these issues stem from other issues like economics, addiction and/or mental health complications.”

For more information please contact the Shoshone County Courthouse at 208-752-1264.