Manti considers rule changes to encourage residents to clean up

MANTI—The Manti City Council has agreed to come up with a revised fine schedule for violations of its nuisance ordinance in hopes lower fines, and the potential of having fees waived, will encourage people to clean up unsightly properties.

At a meeting May 19, the council agreed to put the ideas into a written draft and hold a public hearing sometime this summer, although the council didn’t set a specific date.

“Anytime you start doing anything like this, as far as enforcement of nuisance ordinances, you need the community to buy into it,” Mayor Korry Soper said. “If you don’t, you’re spinning your wheels. 

Councilwoman Mary Wintch, who took the lead in presenting information she had gathered from various sources about nuisance enforcement, said Manti isn’t really enforcing its nuisance ordinance right now. 

Under the current ordinance, a violator can be fined $750 per day until a property is cleaned up. The high fine level may be one of the reasons the city hasn’t enforced the ordinance, she said. 

She cited a guidebook on municipal government, which said there are three steps to the enforcement process: First, outline the enforcement plan in a public meeting (which Manti plans to do this summer). Second: State that the community intends to enforce the ordinance consistently. Third: Actively enforce the ordinance in perpetuity.

City manager Kent Barton said the city took that basic approach in enforcement of its animal control ordinance. 

When enforcement started, he said, the city got a lot of complaints from people who were cited for such things as permitting dogs to run loose. The city published a fine schedule and held a public hearing on the fines. “And that has resolved the problem,” he said, “That has been very, very effective.” 

Wintch said she talked to an official in Provo, which passed its nuisance ordinance in 1991. She learned Provo charges $30 per day “per noncompliant item” up to a maximum of $1,200. Currently, she said, Provo is in the process of updating its fee schedule. 

“The idea was to encourage people to clean up their properties, so if they could clean it up within 15 days, or you could say 20 days, then they would waive the fine.” Provo reported 90 percent compliance with that system. 

Rather than $750 per day, she suggested “something more reasonable,” such as $50 per noncompliant issue. “That would mean if you had two old refrigerators and one old stove on your front lawn, that would be $150,” she said. 

Councilman Jason Vernon asked if the city had the capacity to enforce the nuisance ordinance. Barton said it would depend on how much push-back the city received. “I think we give a try with what we’ve got,” he said, adding that the city might have to hire some part-time help. 

“I would hope that folks, given notice, especially if you have a public hearing and the community overall wants to keep up the value of their properties and not have them degraded by something that’s next to them, I would hope you would have…community support,” Wintch said.