Fayette County

Housing inspectors find fewer problems in neighborhoods surrounding UK

Lexington city inspectors made a sweep of neighborhoods surrounding the University of Kentucky on Thursday and found a decrease in illegally parked cars, yards littered with trash, overturned Herbies on the curb and poorly maintained rental houses.

The inspections were made in advance of Saturday's UK football game at Commonwealth Stadium. This is the fourth year for Game Day preparations, a cooperative effort by the city and the university.

It is paying off, city officials said.

Conditions aren't perfect, but "things have improved dramatically," said David Jarvis, director of code enforcement.

City employees from the police department, code enforcement, LexPark, solid waste, traffic engineering and streets and roads gathered in the Imperial Shopping Center parking lot on Waller Avenue near the UK campus, then fanned out in teams, walking each block in the Elizabeth Street corridor, Alyesford Place neighborhood, Columbia Heights area and South Broadway Park. They inspected the outside of every house.

Several hours later, they had issued 89 nuisance notices for problems such as yards littered with debris, and about 100 notices for house repairs.

During the first year of the Game Day inspections, hundreds of citations were written, said Calvin Powell, nuisance supervisor. As more people have complied with city codes, sweeps have been reduced from three a year to one.

Lexington police Lt. Keith Gaines, who is assigned to the university area, says compliance has improved because of better communication between UK, the city, student government and property owners.

"It's a cumulative thing with students. A student gets a parking ticket, they pass the word on to their friends," Gaines said. "Over four years, students are learning what is and is not acceptable behavior."

Before classes started at UK this fall, hundreds of student volunteers hung 1,000 tags on doorknobs in neighborhoods near the university telling renters and landlords about such rules as the requirement to bring trash containers in within 24 hours of pickup, and the prohibition against parking in yards.

Noisy parties and trash continue to be the biggest nuisances, Gaines said.

Many of the housing violations found by city inspectors Thursday were in the Waller Avenue and Elizabeth Street area where there are 189 houses, only five of them owned-occupied, Powell said. Most of the rentals have gotten at least one notice in the past, he said.

On Thursday, repeat violators were hit with a civil penalty and fines that ranged from $100 to $1,000, Jarvis said. In March, the city council restructured the fine schedule for the first time since 1998, doubling many fines.

Owners will have 14 days to correct such problems as broken porch railings, rotten window frames and inadequate fire escapes.

After 14 days, Powell said, a contractor will be hired to clean up the problem, and the property owner will get the bill.

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