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Posted on Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 4:10 p.m.

Dexter Village Council unanimously OKs nuisance ordinance changes to be used in 'extreme cases'

By Lisa Allmendinger

The Village of Dexter has added some teeth to its nuisance ordinance for those extreme cases where compliance becomes an ongoing issue.

Following a public hearing Monday night during which no one spoke, and the previous approval of the village’s Planning Commission, the Village Council unanimously adopted amendments to its ordinance that will allow officials to clean-up and collect overdue fines and costs for extreme public nuisances by adding the costs to the repeat violator’s property taxes.

However, Allison Bishop, community development director, said the goal was to fix violations, and the stepped-up regulations would only be used in extreme cases for ongoing violations, which could not be remedied otherwise.

The changes will allow the village to get the mess cleaned up, and if the property owner does not pay, the fees could be added to the violator’s tax bill.

“I really try to work with people and try to come up with an abatement plan before I go to court,” she said, admitting that perhaps she worked too hard to remedy situations before seeking ramped-up means to abate unsightly situations such as accumulated junk.

And, although the ordinance allows the zoning enforcement officer to go after property owners who have peeling paint on their homes, she said she’s never done that.

However, she’s been having trouble getting any kind of response from one particular unnamed village property owner for an accumulation of junk and rubbish that’s not inside a building. Despite several court appearances and about $1,200 in fines, the problem has yet to be fixed.

“I’ve tried and tried and gone to court a number of times and I just can’t get a response out of her,” Bishop said.

The changes in the ordinance will allow the village to remedy problemslike this by adding the fines and clean-up costs to the property owner’s tax bill if they are not paid.

It’s a remedy that several cities have enacted, including Chelsea and Ann Arbor, but one that will be used only as a last resort in Dexter, Bishop said.

In fact, the changes to the village’s ordinance are based in part on a section of Ann Arbor’s outdoor storage abatement ordinance, according to a memo from Bishop.

The amendments were added to assist the village’s zoning office “to achieve compliance and abate violations,” Bishop’s memo states.

“I try to get compliance before I start issuing fines,” she said for things like unlicensed vehicles, overgrown weeds and sign violations.

In fact, she said she’s issues 57 sign violation communications this year.

The amended ordinance is “for extreme situations and I don’t anticipate using it,” very often, she said.

Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter for She can be reached at For more Dexter stories, visit our Dexter page.



Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 6 p.m.

You do have the right to tell them to clean up their visible garbage in the yard. It could affect the property value or re-sell value of your house. Those type of people should not be living in an area were the houses are close together, but in a secluded rural area. Then they can collect all the junk they want


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 9:07 p.m.

What constitutes junk? It becomes opinion again. What if they have lived there for 25 years and its always looked the same, but now you or someone else thinks its junk? Why should the longer resident now be subject to fines? Blight has a legal definition, which is the only reasonable standard I find acceptable.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:07 p.m.

Empowering Zoning Ordinances as a bludgeon is not a very good idea for folks who paid for their property. A blight ordinance is one thing, but that's not what this is. There is wide latitude for opinion creating breaches and capricious enforcement at the whim of a few. In recent years, local boards have toughened up their zoning ordinances in such a manner that one begins to feel if they have been absorbed into some psychotic Suburban Homeowners from Hades community. When do the lawn police with rulers show up? In the township, its already impossible to make basic yard improvements without getting approval and waiver from the Zoning Board, at the cost of at least $300 - so there goes the improvement money. It's as if someone has taken my property use from me without any consultation and wants me to pay them for any uses I may wish to make. This is NOT what I purchased into. This move by the village opens up residents to the whim of their neighbors, no matter how much of a crank, and the opinion of beauty of council members. Simply put - if you didn't pay for the property, you should not have an opinion worth considering about its use or looks. If you have an ugly house next door - make a higher fence. Unless its a blight - you should not have a right to tell others what to do - or not to do- with their property.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 11:57 a.m.

This is what our public officials need in these tough times to punish these scofflaws and make sure they feel it. If they continue to be in violation they should have to be forced from their home and have it sold at auction. The comforting thing is that our public officials would never be heavy handed and are here to serve us. Gives me a warm feeling inside to have laws like this. Merry Christmas.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 11 p.m.

AA On line should give you an opinion column.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 8:45 a.m.

"And, although the ordinance allows the zoning enforcement officer to go after property owners who have peeling paint on their homes, she said she's never done that." We'll get to see if that holds true now that it will become worth her while to do so. I'm always quite skeptical of the personal promises of officials to hold their new and greater authorities in check without any balances written into the law such as hearings before council or a judge. This is a grave power to vest in a single person or unelected office. Basically, the official will be able to order repairs and cleanups and pass those costs onto the tax rolls. I'm certain there are instances when that's needed for public health and safety. But, it sounds like the ordinance has a very broad definition of what constitutes a nuisance. It's hard to see how some peeling paint threatens the health and safety of the local populace. Instead, this power is intended to protect property values and the image the village wants to project. A nuisance law that vests extraordinary remedies to protect the aesthetic sensibilities of the community can be dangerously misused. It's ok to want to protect property values and the image the village wants to project, but the powers to do so should have strong checks and balances if--ultimately--it can cost people their homes.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:36 a.m.

Sounds great for true extreme cases. My fear is who gets to interpret "extreme". Allison has a reputation of working against residents, not with them. Bet this gets interesting in the next few years as even trivial things begin to get enforced as "extreme". Wonder if anyone will get to read this before the moderaters censor and delete it?