No one should expect to be a part of a community without accepting his or her responsibility to the community. While we all value the freedom to live as we choose, we also recognize that such freedom should not infringe on the rights of others. On a personal level, that’s called being a good neighbor. Collectively, it’s called civic duty.
There are occasions, however, when someone’s refusal to practice being a good neighbor or fulfilling his civic duty requires the community’s response as reflected in the policies enacted by those who elect to represent us.
We see these in our city building and property codes, which set basic requirements for the construction and maintenance of both private and commercial property. In some places, homeowners associations establish and enforce greater restrictions/requirements.
Tonight, the Starkville Board of Aldermen, will hold its second public hearing on a proposed change to the city’s code that would require property owners to board up windows and doors that have been broken out or removed, then make permanent repairs to those entrances within 180 days.
The need for this change should be self-evident. Unfettered access to vacant homes and businesses is a public health and safety hazard.
Requiring property owners to board up damaged structures satisfies the public safety aspect of the code requirements.
The proposed change goes beyond that to address another issue. While boarded-up properties may address public safety concerns, the presence of boarded-up properties is an eyesore, something that potentially damages nearby property values. It’s unfair to those who keep their properties maintained to have a neighboring property in such a state of disrepair.
The proposed change is not unfair to those who own these properties. The city is not asking for expensive or expansive improvements, but rather, inexpensive repairs. Giving the property owner six months to make these permanent repairs is abundantly reasonable.
This is a proactive code change that heads off the issue of dilapidated structures. It’s a change other Golden Triangle municipalities might consider.
Every property owner has the responsibility of maintaining his property at a basic level. It’s called being a good neighbor and honoring your civic duty.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.