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City weighs ordinance to curb crime; Property owners to be fined for repeat calls to addresses

City commissioners approved the first reading of an ordinance to curb repeat criminal offenses by holding property owners responsible.

The ordinance, which was approved unanimously, is based on an ordinance that has been on Lexington’s books for 20 years, Winchester Police Chief Kevin Palmer said Tuesday.

The ordinance calls for civil penalties of $500 to $5,000 to be imposed if police have cited or arrested a person three or more times at a given address.

According to the ordinance, the specific crimes include sexual assaults, prostitution, weapon charges, drug trafficking, gambling, other felonies including assault or the execution of search warrants for those offenses.

“We’re really talking about drug dealers here,” Palmer said.

It would not apply to victims of crimes, according to the ordinance.

After three violations, Palmer said he would personally issue citations to property owners, which would require them to correct the situation. It would also allow the city or county to place a lien on the property if the situation is not corrected. Property owners could appeal the citation through the Administrative Hearing Board.

The ordinance is proposed as a joint city-county ordinance, but the Clark County Fiscal Court has not been presented with the ordinance yet.

Palmer told commissioners the goal of the ordinance is also to deal with absentee landlords.

Though the ordinance applies to rental properties and owner-occupied residences, several landlords voiced their opposition during Tuesday’s Winchester Board of Commissioners meeting.

“I want to be a responsible landlord,” said David Cantrell. “You’re painting us all with a broad brush. I just don’t feel like I need to give up those rights.”

Anthony Clark said there is an element landlords can’t control.

“It’s not our responsibility to pay their fines,” Clark said. “We don’t want these people in our facilities. Sometimes you can’t help it. We don’t have any control over what they do.”

Greg Wood, who leads the local landlords association, requested a 12-month sunset clause, but it was not included in the motion for the first reading.

The commission will have to pass a second reading before the ordinance takes effect.

Earlier in the meeting, the commissioners approved a street closure request to facilitate the construction of a new CVS Pharmacy in downtown Winchester. Those overseeing the project filed an amended request that would leave one lane open on Wall Street as it passes behind the current Kentucky Bank near Ogden Court.

The commissioners also voted unanimously to give $3,000 toward the purchase and operation of a new van for Friends of the Clark County Animal Shelter for transporting animals to be adopted in other states. The previous van, which was owned by A Time to Live, was totaled in a crash in January. The group has been trying to raise $40,000 to purchase and equip a new van, and the city’s donation was the final piece.

In other action, the commission:

— approved a number of street closure requests for downtown events.

— approved the second reading of a budget amendment.

— formally accepted a $1 million community development block grant for the Lincoln Street rehabilitation project.

— accepted the resignation of communications officer III David A. Sargent.

— approved the second reading of an amendment to the city’s social networking media policy.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0051.

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