[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Pittston 7-16-2008 by Ord. No. 2008-4. Amendments noted where applicable.]
This chapter may be cited as the "Pittston City Chronic Nuisance Property Ordinance."
Chronic nuisance properties present grave health, safety and welfare concerns, where the persons responsible for such properties have failed to take corrective action to abate the nuisance condition. Chronic nuisance properties have a tremendous negative impact upon the quality of life, safety and health of the neighborhoods where they are located. This chapter is enacted to remedy nuisance activities that are particularly disruptive to quality of life and repeatedly occur or exist at properties by providing a process for abatement. This remedy is not an exclusive remedy available under any state or local laws and may be used in conjunction with such other laws.
Also, chronic nuisance properties are a financial burden to the City by the repeated calls for service to the properties because of the nuisance activities that repeatedly occur or exist on such property. This chapter is a means to ameliorate those conditions and hold accountable those persons responsible for such property.
For purposes of this chapter, the following words or phrases shall have the meanings prescribed below:
- To repair, replace, remove, destroy, or otherwise remedy a condition which constitutes a violation of this chapter by such means and in such a manner and to such an extent as the applicable City department director or designee(s) determines is necessary in the interest of the general health, safety and welfare of the community.
- CHRONIC NUISANCE PROPERTY
- Property on which a combination of three or more nuisance
activities as defined in this section occur or exist during any five-year
period.[Amended 2-19-2020 by Ord. No. 2-2020]
- The ability to regulate, restrain, dominate, counteract or govern property or conduct that occurs on a property.
- DRUG-RELATED ACTIVITY
- Any unlawful activity at a property which consists of the manufacture, delivery, sale, storage, possession, or giving away of any controlled substance as defined by state law.
- NUISANCE ACTIVITY
- Means and includes:
- B. Any criminal conduct as defined by state law or local ordinance occurring on, around or near a property, including but not limited to the following activities or behaviors:
- (1) Stalking.
- (2) Harassment.
- (3) Failure to disperse.
- (4) Disorderly conduct.
- (5) Assault.
- (6) Any domestic violence crimes.
- (7) Reckless endangerment.
- (8) Prostitution.
- (9) Patronizing a prostitute.
- (10) Public disturbance noises.
- (11) Lewd conduct.
- (12) Any firearms/dangerous weapons violations.
- (13) Drug-related loitering.
- (14) Any dangerous animal violations.
- (15) Any drug-related activity.
- C. For purposes of this chapter, "nuisance activity" shall not include conduct where the person responsible is the victim of a crime and had no control over the criminal act.
- Natural person, joint venture, partnership, association, club, company, corporation, business trust, organization, or the manager, lessee, agent, officer or employee of any of them.
- PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PROPERTY or PERSON RESPONSIBLE
- Unless otherwise defined, any person who has titled ownership of the property or structure which is subject to this chapter, an occupant in control of the property or structure which is subject to this chapter, a developer, builder, or business operator or owner who is developing, building or operating a business on the property or in a structure which is subject to this chapter and/or any person who has control over the property and allows a violation of this chapter to continue.
- PREMISES and PROPERTY
- May be used in this chapter interchangeably and means and public or private building, lot, parcel, dwelling, rental unit, real estate or land or portion thereof, including property used as a residential or commercial property.
- RENTAL UNIT
- Any structure or that part of a structure, including but not limited to a single-family home, room or apartment, which is rented to another and used as a home residence or sleeping place by one or more persons.
Any property within the City of Pittston which is a chronic nuisance property is in violation of this chapter and subject to its remedies; and
Any person responsible for property who permits property to be a chronic nuisance property shall be in violation of this chapter and subject to its remedies.
[Amended 5-16-2018 by Ord. No. 4-2018]
Enforcement. This section will be enforced by the City Code Enforcement Officer or other appropriate city employee as designated in writing by the City Administrator.
Determination and notification. When the Code Enforcement Officer or the designee receives documentation confirming the occurrence of three or more nuisance activities within any five-year period on any property, the Code Enforcement Officer or designee may review such documentation to determine whether it describes the nuisance activities enumerated in § 326-3. Upon such a finding, the Code Enforcement Officer or desginee shall warn the person responsible for such property in writing, that the property is in danger of being declared a chronic nuisance property.
[Amended 2-19-2020 by Ord. No. 2-2020]
Form of warning notice. The warning in Subsection B shall contain:
The street address or legal description sufficient for identification of the property;
A concise description of the nuisance activities that exist or that have occurred on the property;
A demand that the person responsible for such property respond within 10 days of service of the notice to discuss the nuisance activities and create a plan to abate the chronic nuisances;
An offer to the person responsible of an opportunity to abate the nuisance activities giving rise to the violations; and
A statement describing that, if legal action is sought, the property could be subject to closure and civil penalties and or or costs assessed up to $100 per day if declared a chronic nuisance property.
Service of warning notice. The Code Enforcement Officer or designee shall serve or cause to be served such warning upon the person responsible in accordance with the procedures set forth herein. Service shall be in person, by certified mail, or by Pennsylvania State Constable.
Failure to respond. If the person fails to respond to the warning within the time prescribed, the Code Enforcement Officer or designee shall issue a notice in writing declaring the property to be a chronic nuisance property and post such notice at the property and issue the person responsible a civil infraction, punishable by a maximum penalty of $1,000. If the person fails to respond to the issued infraction and or continues to violate the provisions of this chapter, the matter shall be referred to the City Solicitor for further action.
Remediation. If the person responds as required by the notice and agrees to abate the nuisance activity, the Code Enforcement Officer or designee and the person responsible, may work out an agreed-upon course of action which would abate the nuisance activity.
Failure of remediation. If an agreed course of action does not result in the abatement of the nuisance activities or if no agreement concerning abatement is reached, the matter shall be forwarded by the City to the City Solicitor for review for further enforcement action, provided that, in the event the Code Enforcement Officer or designee or the City Solicitor determines that the person responsible has taken reasonable steps to abate the nuisance activity, the City Solicitor shall not commence an enforcement action under this chapter, notwithstanding the continuance of the nuisance activity. It is a defense to an action for chronic nuisance property that the person responsible, at all material times, could not, in the exercise of reasonable care and diligence, control leading to the determination that the property is a chronic nuisance property.
Referral to Solicitor. If there is no response to the warning notice provided in § 326-5C, or if there is no mutually agreed-to course of remedial action to abate the nuisance as provided in § 326-6F, or if the agreed-to course of remedial action is not implemented or fails to correct the nuisance, the Code Enforcement Officer or designee, may refer the matter to the City Solicitor for review for further legal action under this chapter. Based upon the information then provided by the City Solicitor, City officials may direct the City Solicitor to undertake further enforcement action under the provisions of this chapter and applicable law. The City Solicitor may initiate authorized action in the District Magesterial Court or other such applicable court of law and seek penalties and costs for abatement of the nuisance.
[Amended 5-16-2018 by Ord. No. 4-2018]
In determining whether a property shall be deemed a chronic nuisance property and subject to the court's jurisdiction, the City shall have the initial burden of proof to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property is a chronic nuisance property. The City may submit official police reports and other affidavits outlining the information that led to arrest(s) and other chronic nuisance activity occurring or existing at the property. The failure to prosecute an individual, or the fact that no one has been convicted of a crime, is not a defense to a chronic nuisance action.
Once a court determines the property to be a chronic nuisance under this section, the court may impose a civil penalty against any or all of the persons responsible for the property and may order any other relief deemed appropriate. A civil penalty may be assessed for up to $100 per day for each day the nuisance activity continues to occur following the date of the original warning by the Chief of Police or his/her designee(s), as described in § 326-5. In assessing the civil penalty, the court may consider the following factors, citing to those found applicable:
The court which determined the property to be a chronic nuisance property shall also assess costs against the person responsible in the amount it costs the City to abate, or attempt to abate, the nuisance property.
If the court determines the property to be a chronic nuisance property, the court shall order the property closed and secured against all unauthorized access, use and occupancy for a period up to one year and may impose a civil penalty and costs.
Once a determination has been made by the court that the chronic nuisance property shall be subject to closure, the court may authorize the City to physically secure the premises and initiate such closure. Costs for such closure shall be submitted to the court for review. Any civil penalty and/or costs awarded to the City may be filed with the City Treasurer, who shall cause the same to be filed as a lien on the property with the County Prothonotary. The City shall file a formal lis pendens notice when an action for abatement is filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County.
The Luzerne County Court shall retain jurisdiction during any period of closure or abatement of the property.
District Court 11-1-2004 shall have jurisdiction of all civil infractions issued pursuant to this chapter.
Nothing in this chapter prohibits the City from taking any emergency action for the summary closure of such property when it is necessary to avoid an immediate threat to public welfare and safety. The City may take summary action to close the property without complying with the notification provisions of Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, but shall provide such notice as is reasonable under the circumstances.