ST. JOHN • The St. John City Council on Monday night gave final approval to ordinances that require owners of vacant and rental properties to register with the city.
The aim of the ordinances is to keep track of absentee landlords and help the city recoup some of the cost of monitoring and inspecting vacant properties. They will also help officials know who to notify when the grass is not being cut.
City Attorney Hardy Menees said he wants a notice of the charges, similar to a lien, attached to the property record so if the owner does not pay the registration fee and the property is sold, the new owner will have to pay it. The city has about 250 vacant properties, many owned by out-of-town banks, the lasting result of the housing crisis of 2008.
“This is really a problem,” Menees said after the meeting. “Every municipality in America is now dealing with banks in remote locations for properties that are within their jurisdiction. It is very frustrating.”
On another issue, Menees told the council the three-judge panel of the Eastern Court of Appeals’ opinion on the municipality’s primary seat belt ordinance is final because the person who challenged the ordinance did not file an appeal by the deadline. Earlier this year the panel upheld the city’s ordinance allowing police to stop motorists who are not wearing seat belts.
Currently state law considers not wearing a seat belt a secondary offense, and police must have another reason for stopping a driver and searching the vehicle. At issue in the Court of Appeals decision was whether a municipal ordinance could supersede a state law on the matter.
Menees said he hopes many more jurisdictions enact primary seat belt ordinances, joining 39 counties and municipalities that already have them. He noted that every state that touches Missouri except Nebraska has a primary seat belt law.
The council also passed a resolution supporting Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of bills aimed at providing some specific tax breaks and exemptions. The changes would cost St. John $97,000 a year, threatening services the city provides such as street repairs, police protection and snow removal, the resolution says.
“The subsequent property tax increases that would be required to overcome this loss would be devastating to St. John property owners and our area economy,” the resolution read. The resolution also says the council “implores” the senate not to overturn Nixon’s veto of the bills.